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.
The following sources have been used for gathering voter turnout data as well as updating them regularly:
- National Electoral Management Bodies
National Statistics Bureaus
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 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.