Some people don’t vote. There could be more of them in the future if politicians are unable to engage more young people, one researcher said. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Some people don’t vote. There could be more of them in the future if politicians are unable to engage more young people, one researcher said. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Here’s what we know about people who stayed home on Election Day

Many young men with lower levels of education stay home when their countrymen go to polling stations. About half of people who stay home say they simply aren’t interested in politics. This has not always been true.

Published

Here's what the largest group of non-voters looked like during Norway's local elections in 2015: They were men under 40 who were not immigrants, and had no additional education beyond secondary school.

Norway holds elections every two years, alternating between national and municipal/county elections. A new analysis by Statistics Norway of the election in 2015 paints a picture of the Norwegians who decided not to go to the polls.

Young, uneducated males made up five per cent of the 4.2 million individuals eligible to vote.

The voter turnout in 2015 was 60.2 per cent.

Education less decisive among elders

Depending on your age, the amount of education you have can be a strong predictor of whether or not you will exercise your right to vote. The more highly educated a person is, the more likely they are to vote. But things change when people are over 60.

Among individuals aged 60 to 80, voter turnout is also high among Norwegians with a primary or secondary school education.

Øyvin Kleven, a researcher at Statistics Norway, thinks this can be explained in several ways.

“Older people have had a long time to become interested in politics. Also, fewer people in this age group have high levels of education. Many people were nevertheless mobilized through popular movements, such as the fight to establish Nynorsk as a language and the labour movement,” he said in an article on the Statistics Norway website (Norwegian only).

Lower turnout in the future?

Kleven thinks that there is a real chance that people with less education will be less likely to vote in the future than previous generations have been, resulting in a somewhat lower turnout.

But if new social movements and new parties get wind in their sails, it may motivate more people to vote in the future too, he said.

Election experts already see the contours of a new party landscape. Green voters are rebelling against what they perceive as Norway’s lack of climate policy and have migrated to parties such as the Norwegian Green Party. Voters who want to protect outlying districts and regions from a move by the Norwegian government for more centralization are adopting the Centre Party. Voters who are opposed to the use of tolls to raise money for additional road and other transportation projects have actually formed a single-issue party, called the People's Movement for No More Road Tolls.

Still trust the system

Election researchers at the Institute for Social Research (ISF) have followed Norwegians' views on politicians for more than 40 years. They do not believe that there has been a decline in political confidence in the population.

But there is also a significant proportion of voters who have low confidence in politicians and institutions, their research shows.

The researchers say Norway’s political system faces two challenges.

The first is people who never vote at all. As many as 20 per cent of those whose education stopped after primary school chose not to vote in any of the last four elections. Most of them are young men.

Nevertheless, the most overrepresented group of permanent non-voters are individuals with an immigrant background, where almost one in four chooses not to go to the polling station.

Young voters feel the most fear and anger

The ISF researchers have also investigated how emotions affect voting.

Sixty-one per cent of voters said that the way civil society is developing filled them with hope, while 22 per cent said it filled them with fear.

A somewhat surprising finding is that it was the youngest voters who reported most of the negative feelings such as fear, nervousness and anger when they described their feelings about how civil society is developing.

Women expressed more fear and anger than men, according to the study, which was featured on ISF's website (in Norwegian).

The analyses show that the voters who were angry with the development of civil society were more likely to vote for the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet in Norwegian), which is a right-wing libertarian political party. People who were fearful of how civil society is developing were more likely to be voters who supported the Christian Democratic Party (Kristelig Folkeparti), which has Christian values at its core.

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Read the Norwegian version of this article on forskning.no