“…almost half of the electorate are choosing not to vote”

Catching up somewhat from Monday, here’s Alex Kane on OFMdFM’s mini Queen’s speech (erm, presser about what they plan to do from September onwards), and the walkout from the UUP it provoked:

So dull and uninteresting was it that the only aspect the media focused on the following day was the withdrawal of the UUP from the cohesion sharing and integration (CSI) committee. Now then, I know what most of you are thinking: goodness gracious, the UUP actually made a decision about something!

Anyway, they didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter, for this is what Wednesday’s statement had said: “The First Minister and Deputy First Minister have received a report from their representatives on the CSI working group. They are encouraged that considerable progress has been made. The First and Deputy First Ministers will meet with party leaders in early September to conclude the process.”

In other words, the DUP and Sinn Fein had absolutely no interest in what the representatives of the other parties thought about progress.

All that mattered was that the two big parties had clearly been working to their own agenda and were satisfied that they could nail something into place in September. All that Nesbitt and McDonnell could expect was a meeting, in which they would be presented with a take-it-or-leave-it option.

He concludes:

The DUP/SF concept of a shared future seems to be one in which the age-old dividing lines and parties remain in place, but with enough safeguards and us-and-them symbolism to keep both sides happy. And maybe they are right.

But that still leaves us with the fact that almost half of the electorate are choosing not to vote: and that divide between what the voters are settling for and what the non-voters are not settling for strikes me as a fundamentally more important division than the one between Protestants and Roman Catholics or unionist and republican.

To some extent we know what unionist and republican voters want, because they are voting for it at Assembly, Westminster and council level. But we don’t know what the non-voters want (although the fact they have stopped voting for the existing parties tells you something) because there is no one offering them new platforms or agendas.

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  • Mister_Joe

    It’s not just in N.I. that close to half the electorate choose not to vote. It seems to be worldwide in the developed countries, including here in Canada. The reason that people most often offer is that it makes no difference who is in power; the small guys will still get screwed by the big guys.
    I believe it’s compulsory to vote in Australia. I wonder how many stay at home there or how many get fined.

  • Mister_Joe

    Someone once said that all politics are local. But in local elections here, turnout would typically be less than 25%.

  • Kevsterino

    Around here about half of those eligible register to vote and about half of those registered go to the polls. It amazes me as I remember as a child seeing black folks risk their lives for the franchise.

    On the other hand, if folks can’t be arsed to educate themselves politically, I wonder how much more damaging it would be if such folks cast their ballots.

  • williewombat

    The reasons people may be voting are actually unknown we have lots of polls in NI from time to time perhaps we should have a Poll to try and asertain why people are not voting in same numbers as they used to is it complacency, disillusionment,laziness, ambivilence, contentment, lack of choice, lack of awareness, feeling of helplessness, dissatisfaction, something else. Until we actually get some steer on the answer to this question a lot of the musings of opinions quite often in support of some personal or corporate agenda. I amazed no such research regarding this seems to exist to my knowledge.

  • williewombat


    Again seem to be making assumptions is it the politically uneducated who are not voting, is it the uneducated full stop who are not voting the realitly is we just don`t know perhaps its the people who are voting who are doing the damage by making politicians think they actually have support.

  • williewombat

    Many peoples perceptions of politicians these days are that their priorities are
    1. themselves
    2 their party
    3. their families
    4 Anything which props up the first 3
    5 not sure possibly the electorate

  • Kevsterino

    Maybe a slot on the ballot for “None of the above” would help. If the none of the above slot achieves a plurality of votes cast, declare the election void and have another go.

  • williewombat

    Its scary what a vote can do I suppose its the only way we have of judging support for a particular political party certainly the number of paid up members in all the local parties would indicate great disinterest and disatisfaction take all those geting an income from politics and their families away from the total party memberships and there is in reality very few other members left. For most of todays politicians it seems to be more about money and power than it is about leading the country for the benefit of the population. Was it ever different ? don`t really know is the honest answer.

  • tyrone_taggart


    I like some politicians. Some are in it for the right reasons.

  • williewombat


    Possibly I suppose any examples then ?

  • tyrone_taggart


    Possibly I suppose any examples then ?

    “Sean Neeson” I when round the doors with him a long long time ago. I found him a very nice man.

  • We all vote when we make a choice, elections are vehicles for one type of voting, and some votes are more influential than others and of course the more money you have the more choices you have.

    As to decent politicians, Douglas Hurd is my benchmark but will he survive the inevitable Slugger onslaught which is now heading his way.

  • dwatch

    ” I wonder how many stay at home there or how many get fined.”

    Mister Joe, I believe non voters are fined $20 Australian dollars about £13.

  • Mister_Joe

    Thanks, dwatch.

  • dwatch

    One of the problems is that many people from the working class are still extremely ignorant regards how political systems work. I don’t know if political systems are even taught to children today as a subject in primary & secondary schools today. Only in Grammar schools & University can this subject be studied I believe.

  • andnowwhat


    Sean’s a sound bloke. Actually, he’s my cousin and like myself, is Big Liam’s second cousin.

    Personally, I’ve never voted. When the parites buck a pamphlet through my letterbox that could have been sent in Laois or Durham, I’ll vote.

  • wild turkey

    “Maybe a slot on the ballot for “None of the above” would help. If the none of the above slot achieves a plurality of votes cast, declare the election void and have another go.”

    Kevsterino. your NOTA idea does have some pedigree

    The mechanics behind NOTA would be simple. If a plurality of votes are cast for NOTA, the candidates AND the parties who lost to it would be disqualified from a special election held to fill the vacancy. If people think the NOTA wording is too negative, the ballot line could instead read: “In Favor of a New Election.”

    “One of the problems is that many people from the working class are still extremely ignorant regards how political systems work. ”

    ah Dwatch, actually one of the problems is that many politicians are still extremely ignorant regards how the working class, and others they consider below the salt, survives. the political class evidences any real interest in or advocacy of the values and aspirations of classes other than their own. then again, perhaps only those educated in grammar schools and/or universities might have legitimate outlooks and ambitions, eh?

  • wild turkey

    oops above should read

    “the political class evidences little real interest……”

    back to finishing the kids fish and chips…. with bernaise sauce, okay dwatch?

  • ThomasMourne

    Our sectarian political parties have their core supporters who turn out for most elections and would vote for a donkey [and have done] as long it was dressed up in the party colours.

    Then there are a few floating voters who switch around in the vain hope of something changing.

    Another group, myself included, will always vote for a non-sectarian candidate.

    And then there are those who don’t know, don’t care and don’t vote but who will whinge till the cows come home about “them wasters up in the big house”.

    I don’t agree with compulsory voting – it is not democratic.

    Things here will stay the same until people decided to leave sectarianism behind.

  • Mister_Joe

    .. it is not democratic..

    Defining democracy would make for a great, long, thread.

  • When canvassing in East Belfast last year, I was told that the man would never vote for any politician again, they are all corrupt. He talked about the Robinsons, but said they were all the same.

    I wasn’t able to persuade him that the Green Party is different.

  • Alias

    “Defining democracy would make for a great, long, thread.” – Mister Joe

    For about half the first page. After that, it’d be about which of the two tribes is the most undemocratic.

  • Mister_Joe

    Yeah; you’re probably right, Alias.

  • Henry94


    Maybe a slot on the ballot for “None of the above” would help. If the none of the above slot achieves a plurality of votes cast, declare the election void and have another go

    I don’t think it would increase turnout. I don’t share the view that non-voters are longing for something better. It could just as easily be the case that they are so content with the status quo that they see no reason to change anything.

    Or they could be just lazy and uninformed. It is quite possible these days to spend your day listening to music on the radio, watching soaps and reading celebrity gossip or sport. Many people do just that and don’t feel any need at all to engage in politics.

    Of course those who don’t get many votes are naturally seduced by the idea that non-voters would vote for them if they could just be tempted to the polls. I doubt it.

    Those of us who look forward to elections with the same excitemet as we do a World Cup are the real odd-balls of course.

  • Kevsterino

    @Henry, I think if they were happy with the status quo they would vote for the party in power to sustain their happiness.

    Of course, I can’t speak for how things are in your part of the world, but around here there is a growing sense that whether Democrats or Republicans win makes no difference in the way the country is run.

    But keep in mind, I’m an oddball. ;o)

  • FuturePhysicist

    Alex Kane is a political failure who unlike other journalists like Eammon McCann, James Nesbitt and Ferghal McKinney gave up on political representation when it wasn’t for him. He has one vote, but no involvement in a party or will to stand independently and has cut himself off completely from making a difference outside of his one vote, he probably doesn’t use.

    Democracy is the only show in town, and if you want to make a difference you have to be the difference in the political establishment. Being different isn’t good enough to be a representative for those marginalised. Being eccentric doesn’t give you a mandate against what passes for normal politics here, having votes does.

    Sinn Féin and the DUP earned their votes … Alex Kane probably doesn’t even use his one, and has shown he has lost the will to earn other votes by leaving the political process.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Sorry, Mike Nesbitt not James Nesbitt (James did a very good impression of Ivan Cooper though 😉 )

  • Greenflag

    @ williewombat ,

    ‘For most of todays politicians it seems to be more about money and power than it is about leading the country for the benefit of the population. ‘

    That would be a general perception not just in Northern Ireland but in the Republic , the rest of the UK and the USA as well. The only country where politicians are still held in some regard as to their integrity and honesty is Sweden as per a recent survey .

    ‘Was it ever different ?’

    I believe it was into the 1950.s . 60s and most of the 1970’s at least in these islands. Although the general rule that politicians provide the excrement that keeps the rest of body politic i.e the people from solving their problems by more physical means holds for all time nevertheless there has been a major change in how politicians are both perceived and how they present themselves and are presented since the advent of mass marketing , tv , and modern mass media .

    Perhaps the real reason why almost half the electorate doesn’t bother to vote is that they don’t see any major differences between the main parties and they haven’t yet figured out which group of ‘banksters’ each of the main parties support and are funded by .

    But how to take big money out of ‘politics’ is an issue that the vast majority of elected politicians don’t want to talk about .In this regard the USA is the world’s worst in the ‘buying ‘ votes category . As the man said where else would you get a bunch of people living in trailer homes demanding that the rich should’nt be taxed and that they were doing okay without any health insurance :(?

  • Greenflag
  • FuturePhysicist. All the more so considering JN didn’t have any resemblance at all to Ivan Cooper. Cooper is from Killaloo not far from I grew up, [near claudy]. Stormont was only reinstated in ’07 because Paisley took his chance to be at the top job and only said yes after the results showed his party [and unionists were the main group. When the flip over happens Stormont will fall again as unionists wouldn’t play second fiddle to any nationalist party. The shinners have taken the suop in large gulps to get there as well, if their granny’s were alive they would have been sold long ago.