Voter Turnout Database

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About the Database

 

The Voter Turnout Database is the best resource for a wide array of statistics on voter turnout from around the world. It contains the most comprehensive global collection of voter turnout statistics from presidential and parliamentary elections since 1945. Always growing, the database also includes European Parliament elections, as presented by country using both the number of registered voters and voting age population as indicators, and in some cases the data includes statistics on spoilt ballot rate. The easy-to-use database allows you to search for data by country or field, and even download all the data from the database in one file.

METHODOLOGY

The Voter Turnout data presented in this website is based on data gathered from desk research by IDEA staff, surveys to Electoral Management Bodies and the IDEA publications Voter Turnout in Western Europe since 1945 (2004) and Voter Turnout since 1945 (2002). Data in this database have been regularly updated since its launch and users are able to make contributions to help International IDEA keep the Voter Turnout database up to date.

A comment on Registered Voters and Voting Age Population

In this database we use the Voting Age Population (VAP), as well as the number of Registered Voters (REG) as indicators of political participation. The VAP figure includes an estimated number of all those citizens over the legal voting age, while the registration rate comprises the actual number of people on the voters’ roll.

The users of the database will notice that in some instances the registration rate (REG) for a country actually exceeds the estimated number of eligible voters (VAP). The explanation for this apparent anomaly usually lies either in the inaccuracy of the electoral roll, or in the estimated number of eligible voters (VAP).

In some countries, the roll is extremely difficult to keep up to date, and deaths or movements of electors from one district to another are not reflected in the roll, something which is a common problem facing electoral administrators around the world.

It is important to emphasize that the registration figures are, in most cases, more recently updated than population figures. The VAP is based on the most recent population census figure available. Although not an exact figure, it is a reflection of the demographic trend and estimated population growth of a country.

Choosing the elections

The criteria for including an election in the database are the following:

That the election was held after 1945.

That the election is for national political office in independent nation states, with the exception of those nations which held elections on the eve of their independence from colonial rule (such as Nigeria in 1959), those small island nations whose sovereignty is limited by "free association" with a larger power (such as Aruba) or elections to the EU parliament.

That there was a degree of competitiveness (that is, more than one party contested the elections, or one party and independents contested the elections, or the election was only contested by independent candidates). This criterion excluded the one-party states of North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union, but led to the inclusion of elections, such as, Uganda 1995 (where parties were banned) and Egypt 1976 where a number of independent candidates ran against the ruling party. Within the grey area of competitiveness we have erred on the side of inclusion and, at least where the data is available, have included the turnout figures and explanatory variables in the tables for each country.

That the franchise was universal. However, for the purposes of comparison we have included elections in Liechtenstein (pre-1986), Switzerland (pre-1971), Greece (pre-1956), Belgium (1948), Kuwait (1992-1996), Bahrain (1973) and Argentina (1947) which excluded women from voting. In these cases, the voting age population figure only includes men. We have not included elections where the franchise was limited to a very small (and ethnically defined) segment of the population, e.g., South Africa (before 1994), Western Samoa (before 1991).

The Voter Turnout database has been expanded of the data from the European Parliament elections that have been of an increasing importance in Europe. The EP elections are not only a hotly debated problem in European media but also quite a challenging issue for their general low voter turnout. We are entirely aware of the fact that the EP elections differ from the concept of the particular country elections that we have solely focused on so far but we believe this data is of a high relevance to our database.

Updating the database.

Since the launch of the voter turnout database, the Electoral Processes Programme at International IDEA has ensured that the data have been regularly updated. The primary sources for the data on voter registration, total vote and corresponding voter turnout are the national electoral management bodies (EMBs) and national statistical bureaus of countries listed in the database. Data from the EMBs are obtained from either their official reports or information provided in their official web portals. In few cases, when data are not available from the EMBs, the information on voter turnout is obtained from secondary sources as listed above. Population and freedom house indicators are always obtained from secondary sources.

In addition, inputs and suggestions from the users of the database are also regularly taken into account. Like all International IDEA databases, the voter turnout database has a feature which allows users to provide voter turnout or other related information for a specific country and/or election. When a user suggests an update for the data available in the database or provides information for the missing data, this information is sent automatically to the respective staff in the Electoral Processes team who can verify this information and make updates if the data provided are correct.

FAQ

No, this website contains turnout statistics for elections that were held for national political office and EU parliamentary elections only. More information on local elections can be found at regional resources such as Political Database of the Americas: http://pdba.georgetown.edu/Elecdata/Sur/sur.html
Information about electoral systems and their consequences, comparative information as well as country case studies can be found in: Electoral System Design: The New International IDEA Handbook and ACE Electoral Knowledge Network: Electoral systems
We do have some election statistics disaggregated by gender. However, this data is not provided in many countries. Please refer to this page for gender disaggregated turnout: Gender Voter Turnout. IDEA published a report on Youth Voter Participation in 1999, and more information is available here: Youth Voter Participation: Involving Today's Young in Tomorrow's Democracy.
A number of factors affect how many people turn out to vote. These include institutional factors such as the type of electoral system used and whether voting is compulsory or not. Socio-economic factors such as the literacy rate, the wealth of a nation, its population size, and its "human development" level, and political factors such as the "competitiveness" of the election, have all been proposed as having a direct impact upon voter turnout. For more information, please see the Global Survey: What is affecting Voter Turnout?
Among the countries that we report in the database women do not have the right to vote in Kuwait. There are many countries in the world that do not have democratic elections and where suffrage rights are obviously limited. There is a global history of franchise, containing information on the spread of universal suffrage, to be found at: http://www.ipu.org/wmn-e/suffrage.htm
A number of countries in the world practice compulsory voting according to their electoral laws. Please refer to this page for more information on compulsory voting: http://www.idea.int/data-tools/data/voter-turnout/compulsory-voting
Voting Age Population (VAP) refers to the total number of potential voters of voting age in a given country. The VAP figure is a rough estimate and it does not take into account the fact that there might be people who are above voting age but still not enfranchised due to legal or systemic barriers. The estimate gives an approximate figure of the number of eligible people but it does not reflect the exact number. VAP might differ largely from the number of registered people since registration in many countries is voluntary or not accurate. In countries where registration is compulsory and automatic, and based on the civil register, for example the Scandinavian countries, the VAP figure and the number of registered voters are quite close.
The ACE Electoral Knowledge Network is the world’s largest repository of electoral knowledge. It is a comprehensive and systematic collection of information on every aspect relating to the organisation and implementation of elections. Access the ACE network www.aceproject.org.
The most common voting age in the world is 18 years. Twenty or twenty-one is also used in some countries. Iran has the lowest voting age in the world and allows 15 year olds to vote. The highest age is 21 and this is practised in several countries for example Tonga, Azerbaijan, Lebanon and Singapore. For more information about voting age, please see  ACE Electoral Knowledge Network: Comparative Data.
Voting by mail is the most common form of absentee voting. There has been much discussion on the use of Internet voting as a method for increasing voter turnout at elections. Read more about voting by mail, internet voting and other types of external voting in Voting from Abroad: The International IDEA Handbook.
The fact that some countries display a larger number of registered voters than voting age population (VAP) might seem odd. In some cases this is the result of a typo or inaccurate information provided by the EMB, but it might also be caused by a number of issues relating to both the process of registration and the actual estimation of the figures. The first thing that is important to remember is that the figures for voting age population are always based on estimates. As with all estimates, the numbers might be significantly different from the true values. Also, worthy of notice is that the data collected for VAP on the one hand, and the data for registered voters on the other, are acquired from different sources (mainly the Electoral Management Body in the case of the latter, and UN Demographic Yearbook for the former). These sources might in turn also use different estimates, resulting in discrepancies between the two measures. Finally, the number of registered voters can be inaccurate if the voters list is flawed. There might be asymmetries present in the registration process; some voters could be registered twice or the authorities might have failed to remove certain people who are no longer eligible to vote (such as deceased voters or voters who have left the country). This might be because of short-comings in the way that registration of voters is organized (unclear delegation of responsibility between institutions, problems of communication etc.) or because of other factors that might over- or underestimate the actual number of registered voters. For more information about these issues, please see the ACE Encyclopaedia: Voter Registration

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