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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

A Citizen's Duty. Voter inequality and the case for compulsory turnout

This report focuses on a very significant but relatively neglected challenge to our democracy: inequality in voter turnout.

This report focuses on a very significant but relatively neglected challenge to our democracy: inequality in voter turnout.

Many people are aware that voting turnout has declined dramatically in recent elections - indeed turnout in the last two elections was lower than in any peace time elections in modern times. And this of course has provoked a great deal of public debate and some soul searching among the political class.

Yet much of the discussion assumes that what we have witnessed is an overall decline in turnout across social groups. Politicians, commentators and policymakers, outside the small world of electoral specialists, have yet to appreciate the really significant aspect of this development: that while voting has held up relatively well across some (mainly better off) groups, it has fallen steeply among other (largely worse off or more vulnerable) groups.

In other words, we have seen not just a fall in voter turnout, but a rise in turnout inequality.