Vote for Policies

2024 General Election roundup

It was another ‘surprise’ election, announced just six weeks and one day before polling day. Of course you could argue that this wasn’t a surprise election given we knew it was 99.9% certain to to happen this year. But the reality is we are a volunteer-run organisation and, perhaps for our own sanity, we had mistakenly clung on to the belief it would happen after the Summer. A lesson learned.

Either way, this was the shortest window we had ever faced to get ready. And in response, we managed to get the site live for the longest run-up to polling day! So let’s move on to the result.

Turnout was 51.6%

Turnout is one of our key measures for democracy health, so it was troubling, if not unexpected, to hear it was reported as 60%. This is the lowest since 2001 in fact, and second lowest since 1918. But I’m sorry to say that the real figure is even lower – masked, as it always is, by the ‘inflated’ method used to calculate it. This is something I point out after every election, and the issue is that the electoral register is only 86% complete, meaning the 48.2 million registered voters represent only 86% of eligible voters. That then means that there are 56.1 million people eligible to vote. These ‘missing millions’ must be included in turnout calculations if we are to see the true extent of voter engagement. When you do, the real picture looks like this… 

Bar chart showing voter turnout in the 2024 and 2019 UK general elections
Voting data for the UK General Elections in 2012 and 2019

As the reported turnout figure is 60%, that means 60% of the 48.2 million registered voters. That equates to 28.9 million votes (this will be confirmed when the Commons Library publishes the final vote count).

28.9 million votes equates to 51.6% of all eligible voters. 

I point this out only to expose the true nature of the problem we need to fix. The goal is to create a democracy that everyone can engage with, wants to engage with, and does engage with. I believe this is possible, so there’s no need to under-report the scale of the challenge. In fact, under-reporting could be a symptom of there being no real impetus to improve voter turnout, and that nobody is tasked with improving it.

Which brings me on to the Electoral Commission, whose stated role is to “make sure elections are run well, and that people have all the information they need”. In carrying out this role, their list of activities does not include informing voters about what different political parties are promising. Neither does it provide any education about the issues that political parties campaign on (nor how well different policies have performed). That’s currently left up to the voter, and handful of under-funded (or non-funded) third-sector organisations. This is the reason we have been running our Vote for Policies policy comparison survey for the last five general elections.

And now it’s time to do more.

Time to make policies matter

We know that a lack of non-partisan voter information isn’t the only reason for voter apathy. It’s the common cry that politicians don’t stick to their promises – they are not held to account effectively. That’s why “they just do what they want”. That’s what fuels the perception that our voices don’t matter.

We’d like to do more to address this. And we can.

You may already know, but Vote for Policies is working with Embeddables as our tech partner. It’s thanks to their generosity (they gave us their platform to build the site on, along with lots of support and advice) that we were able to get the new site election ready within 4 weeks. What’s more, with regular feedback from our community of testers as well as via the election survey itself, we were able to make daily improvements in the run-up to polling day. This was a game-changer for us.

That’s why we’re keen to ask for even more feedback and build a bigger community of committed democracy enthusiasts. We want more people to have direct involvement in the new tools and services that we build. Services that can be useful to voters and non-voters alike between elections. We don’t want to wait another 4 or 5 years to hear the same reasons for not voting. Especially as we know we can do something about it!

So if you’re interested in joining us – please sign up below.

Voter turnout in general elections and in the Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom from 1918 to 2024 (© Statista)
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