America’s voter turnout has been poor recently. So poor that only 36.3% of eligible voters turned out to cast votes in the 2014 midterm election. This was a low point for the U.S. because there hasn’t been a turnout this low low since 1942, a total of 72 years.
But how does the United States compare to other democratic developed countries? The Pew Research Center completed a survey of the top 34 developed countries. The U.S. ranked 31st in voter turnout. The turnout was calculated from information regarding the 2012 general election. All of the countries surveyed were part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The information on America’s voter turnout does not include the actual number of registered voters. It only incorporated the voting age population. There are also 6 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that have compulsory or mandatory voting.
U.S. turnout in 2012 was 53.6%, based on 129.1 million votes cast for president and an estimated voting-age population of just under 241 million people. Among OECD countries, the highest turnout rates were in Belgium (87.2%), Turkey (86.4%) and Sweden (82.6%). Switzerland consistently has the lowest turnout, with just 40% of the voting-age population casting ballots in the 2011 federal legislative elections, the most recent.
However, Belgium and Turkey are among the 28 nations around the world (and six in the OECD) where voting is compulsory, according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. (One canton in Switzerland, also an OECD member nation, has compulsory voting.) While compulsory-voting laws aren’t always strictly enforced, their presence or absence can have dramatic impacts on turnout: Of the five highest-turnout OECD countries in recent elections, three have laws requiring their citizens to go to the polls and cast ballots. Conversely, turnout plunged in Chile after it moved from compulsory to voluntary voting in 2012 (and began automatically enrolling eligible citizens): from 87% of registered voters in the 2010 presidential election to 42% in 2013, even as the voter rolls swelled by 64%.
This information could lead one to believe that some Americans are losing faith in democracy. Follow My Vote is on a mission to restore faith in democracy. Please share our content and contact us if you would like to join our cause.
Source: The Pew Research Center
About the author: Will Long is the Marketing Manager of Follow My Vote.