Less than a third of citizens will vote in EU poll - survey


LESS THAN a third of European citizens say they will definitely vote in the European elections, prompting fears of a record low turnout in June.

An EU-wide survey due to be published today shows 28 per cent of EU citizens say they will definitely vote in the elections while a further 6 per cent say they will probably vote. British voters are the least likely in Europe to turn out, with just 21 per cent saying they will definitely or probably vote compared to 30 per cent who say they will definitely not vote.

The results contained in the latest Eurobarometer survey are causing real concern in Brussels that voter turnout could slump to a record low. Since the first direct European parliament elections in 1979, voter turnout has steadily declined. In the last elections in 2004, just 45.5 per cent of citizens cast a ballot, compared to 63 per cent in 1979. The survey says previous research indicates that only people who say they will definitely or probably vote in elections are likely to show up at the polls.

The reasons for not voting are: not knowing enough about the role of the parliament (64 per cent); thinking voting will not change anything (62 per cent); not being sufficiently informed to vote (59 per cent); believing that the parliament does not deal with problems that concern them (55 per cent); and being against Europe, the EU or European construction (20 per cent).

Young people are the least likely to vote in the elections, with 27 per cent of students saying they definitely won’t vote in June. People who have gained a third-level educational qualification are among the most likely to vote, with 40 per cent of those surveyed saying they will definitely vote.

Some 53 per cent of EU citizens say they are not interested in the European elections, compared to 44 per cent who say they are. Some 79 per cent of Latvians and 74 per cent of Czechs say they aren’t interested while 61 per cent of Irish citizens say they are interested in the upcoming elections.

Irish people are more likely to vote in the elections than most Europeans, with 45 per cent of citizens saying they will probably vote in June compared to an EU average of 34 per cent. But this would represent a sharp fall from the last European election in 2004 when turnout was 60 per cent.

Even before the Eurobarometer results were known the EU institutions launched new initiatives to spur voter interest such as broadcasting adverts on MTV and using the internet to woo young voters.

The survey highlights a lack of knowledge about the fundamental workings of the parliament among many citizens. For example, just over half of people (53 per cent) say they know the parliament is directly elected by the citizens of all member states while the same number (53 per cent) say they know that EU laws are decided jointly be the parliament and member states. The awareness of co-decision was least known in Ireland, where just 43 per cent of people said they knew laws were agreed jointly with the parliament.

The survey shows a drop in public support for three EU institutions – the parliament, commission and the European Central Bank.