2004 - Voter turnout with special regard to first time voters

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To read the full text of the comparative study on Voter turnout and first time voters, please click here.

Current problems called attention to the importance of studying the voter turnout.. At the turn of the years 1980-1990 the generally decreasing tendency of the voter turnout began to take form, which has lasted since then. Of course, there are data, which differ from this trend, based on some special motives, which are different from the global social-economic processes. (The Hungarian parliamentary election in 2002 may be an example of it where the turnout was beyond 70% in the first round, then 73% in the second round. The reason for this high turnout rate – in comparison with the former ones – was surely the tense public climate, and the very close result, which was predicted by the public-opinion polls as well.)

There are several factors for the causes of the general decrease. First of all, the loosening, disintegration of the macro- and micro communities (e.g. families), which are the scenes of traditional interpersonal links.  This fact leads to the weakening of traditional adoption of the norms, and also creates a generation spiral as the coming generation will be stayed away not only from the real activity but also from the socialization of the practice of the social norm and activity-sample, which are stimulant to vote.

 The headway of individualism decreases the demand for the common decision-making, and the tendency towards participation. On the other hand, the globalization process with its transnationality decreases the importance of the national social participation; it makes weightless the importance of political participation. The participation relating traditions are being got worse by the high scale of migration as well, through which heterogenity of the community becomes larger, which decreases the number of those who follow the traditional norms. The cause of the electoral absence of interest can be found in the transformation of the party systems and party ideologies as well. The formerly strong ideological borders became faded by the creation of the modern popular parties, “collecting parties”, the tense ideological contrasts disappeared by the process of the big parties drawing towards the centre, the political palette became less transparent. The electoral obligation of the voters also decreased by the decrease of the differences among the electoral possibilities.  The rude, personalized campaign, which neglects the instruments of reasonable conviction, may retain the voters from polling, and they respond with demonstrative abstention.

But why is the low voter turnout harmful? The experts had not considered the electoral abstention as a problem for a long time because the necessary turnout for the validity of the elections was completed, so there was not any doubt about the legality of the elections. However, in the 90s attention was drawn to the fact that because of the large rate of absence the sociological side of the electoral legitimacy, and the democratic representation can get into danger. Voters who don’t take part in the election, are indifferent to the activity of the government, they don’t support it, nor hinder its coming into power. However, later they may become rejective, and this may strongly threaten the stability of the governance.

 The extremely low turnout may increase or decrease the realization of the will of some social classes. This phenomenon can lead to the fact that those groups, which are anyway at the periphery of the society, will get into a cumulated disadvantageous situation by the loss of their ability of their interest-realization.