Voter turnout

In political science, voter turnout is the percentage of eligible voters who participated in an election (often defined as those who cast a ballot). Eligibility varies by country, and the voting-eligible population should not be confused with the total adult population.

Voters lining up outside a Baghdad polling station during the 2005 Iraqi election. Voter turnout was considered high despite widespread concerns of violence.

After increasing for many decades, there has been a trend of decreasing voter turnout in most established democracies since the 1980s.[1][2] In general, low turnout is attributed to disillusionment, indifference, or a sense of futility (the perception that one's vote won't make any difference). According to Stanford University political scientists Adam Bonica and Michael McFaul, there is a consensus among political scientists that "democracies perform better when more people vote."[3]

Low turnout is usually considered to be undesirable. As a result, there have been many efforts to increase voter turnout and encourage participation in the political process. In spite of significant study into the issue, scholars are divided on the reasons for the decline. Its cause has been attributed to a wide array of economic, demographic, cultural, technological, and institutional factors.

Different countries have very different voter turnout rates. For example, turnout in the United States 2012 presidential election was about 55%,[4] while in Malta participation reaches about 95%.[5]


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