30 Nov 2011

Low voter turnout cited as factor in National's success

5:38 am on 30 November 2011

The record low voter turnout in the general election is being cited by a political analyst as having contributed to the National Party's success.

Only 68% of those eligible to cast a ballot actually did so.

Otago University political studies lecturer Bryce Edwards says 1 million eligible voters did not make it to the polls on Saturday, meaning National's 48% of the vote is just 31% of the total of eligible voters.

He says it's impossible to tell which way those who didn't turn out would have voted as they include the marginalised, the alienated and those uneducated about politics.

However, because the National led government polled consistently much higher than Labour for the three years leading up to election day, many people will have seen the result as a foregone conclusion and not bothered to turn up on the day.

Dr Edwards says the low voter turnout also represents growing discontent with political parties and stage-managed election campaigns which do little to inspire the average voter.

He points to one survey which suggested 50% of voters did not feel that any party represented their views or thoughts.

Global trend

A US expert on voter participation says the low turnout reflects a global trend.

Thomas Patterson is professor of government and press at Harvard University's John F Kennedy School of Government.

He told Morning Report that voter turnout has dropped across all advanced democracies by about 5 - 10% over the past decade, with young people taking less interest in elections.