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Is Democracy on the Decline?

In light of the recent rise of populist politics in the west, growing doubts surrounding institutions such as the E.U. and NATO, and the recent downgrade of the U.S. from a “full democracy” to a “flawed democracy,” it is time to ask this question. A major indicator of a democracy’s health are its voter participation rates, many of which are explored below.

Current Voter Turnout in Developed Countries

20

40

69.5%

38.7%

Pew Research Center

60

% of Voting Age Population

80

100

The U.S. ranks near the bottom among democra-

tized countries in terms of voter participation.

Since 1960, voter turnout in U.S. presidential elections has consistently declined. In this last presidential election, the states with the highest voter participation rates were Maine (69.5%); Minnesota (69.4%); and New Hampshire (69.2%). The states with the lowest participation rates were Hawaii (37.8%); Texas (43.1%); and California (46.5%).

100

U.S. Election Project

80

Voter Turnout in USA Presidential Elections 70

Voter Turnout %

0

2016 Voter Participation Rates by State

87.2%

Belgium (2014) Turkey (2015) Sweden (2014) South Korea (2012) Denmark (2015) Iceland (2013) Norway (2013) Israel (2015) New Zealand (2014) Finland (2015) France (2012) Netherlands (2012) Austria (2013) Italy (2013) Germany (2013) Mexico (2012) Hungary (2014) Canada (2015) Greece (2015) Portugal (2015) U.K. (2015) Spain (2016) Czech Republic (2013) Slovakia (2016) Ireland (2016) Luxembourg (2013) United States (2016) Estonia (2015) Slovenia (2014) Poland (2015) Japan (2014) Latvia (2014) Chile (2013) Switzerland (2015) 38.6%

63.1%

54.4%

60

50

`48 `52 `56 `60 `64 `68 `72 `76 `80 `84 `88 `92 `96 `00 `04 `08 `12 `16

Election Years

Voter Turnout for Parliamentary Elections since 1945

Since 1945, with no

Italy Iceland Netherlands New Zealand UK Japan Germany Canada France USA Switzerland

Voter Turnout %

80

60

40

20

International IDEA

`45

International IDEA

exceptions, voter participation rates in parliamentary elections have declined. Countries that rank among the most vibrant democracies– Iceland, the Netherlands and New Zealand– all have experienced a decline. The U.S. fluctuates predictably, however the elections of 2014 saw the lowest level of participation since the second world war– just 33%.


Is Democracy in the Decline?