A core area of the Electoral Commission’s work is to promote public confidence in the democratic process. In order to understand public attitudes, following each set of elections we survey a nationally representative sample of the population in those areas where polls have been held. This report summarises and analyses the results of the post-election surveys conducted in 2017 and provides an overview of public attitudes to elections and voting.
The elections in 2017 saw increased turnout compared to the last equivalent poll – most notably at the Northern Ireland Assembly and Scottish council elections. In addition, the level of engagement among younger age groups at the UK general election appears to have improved since 2015 – our research suggests a greater turnout and an increased level of awareness among younger people of both the election itself and of the parties and candidates standing at the poll.
Nevertheless, we also found strong evidence of a continuing lack of engagement, particularly among young people, with the local elections. While turnout at these polls was up it remains relatively low. We asked people in England with local government elections if they felt they had enough information to make an informed choice on who to vote for – one third of all respondents, including nearly half of 18-34 year olds, disagreed. More work must be done to ensure that all voters have access to information about these elections and who they can vote for, and that they use that access.
Positively, we have again found that most people believe elections in the UK to be well run – with confidence even higher among those who vote – and that the vast majority of voters are satisfied with the process for casting their ballot. However, there is no room for complacency in this area and our research highlighted areas where we believe further work is needed.
While most people continue to be satisfied with the system of registering to vote there is also support for improvement, with two thirds supporting the idea of automatically registering electors when they are issued with a National Insurance number. We have recently published our assessment of the system of electoral registration and highlighted several areas for improvement.
Finally, the perception of electoral fraud continues to be an issue at UK elections. While the vast majority believe voting in general to be safe, there remains a level of concern, albeit based more on media coverage than direct experience. We have previously set out our recommendation for the introduction of an ID requirement for voters at polling stations in Great Britain, reflecting that which is already in operation in Northern Ireland. The UK Government has recently announced plans to pilot the requirement for ID at a number of local elections in May 2018, and the Commission will conduct and publish a full, independent evaluation of those pilots by summer 2018.