Media Blamed For Low Election Turnout

by Desk Editor on Monday, May 28, 2012 — 4:31 PM

Media coverage is to blame for last year’s lowest-ever election turn-out.

That’s according to political scientist Professor Jack Vowles.

“One problem is [the] mass perception that elections are not close and that the outcome is totally determined.

“I think that it’s a problem under MMP that people continue to estimate the closeness of an election by the poll difference between the two leading parties, whereas that is not necessary a clear predictor of what is going to happen.

“It may well be that a coalition of parties may be able to form a government even though the gap between the two major parties is not a close one at all.”

Professor Vowles said the format of televised leader’s debates had made the problem worse.

“The precedent of reintroducing television debates between the two major party leaders alone, without the participation of minor party leaders, is one of the things that tends to keep people thinking in terms of this difference of the two major parties.

“I think this is something that I would recommend does not happen in future because I think people will get a much better idea of the uncertainty of the election if the multi-party nature of it is more clearly put in front of them in a very high-profile television event.”

Professor Vowles said the similarity between the policies of the major parties had also alienated voters.

“Parties actually developing more coherent and distinctive policies is one way of generating interest in politics, but of course there is also an incentive by political parties to coverage on the median voter and so it is difficult always to do that.”

Professor Vowles made the comments to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee’s Inquiry into the 2011 General Election.

Jack Vowles is Professor of Politics at University of Exeter. Click here to read his submission.

Audio From This & Other Select Committees:

Article By Reesh Lyon

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