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Electoral salience and the costs of voting at national, sub-national and supra-national elections in the UK: a case study of Brent, UK

Orford, Scott ORCID:, Rallings, Colin, Thrasher, Michael and Borisyuk, Galina 2009. Electoral salience and the costs of voting at national, sub-national and supra-national elections in the UK: a case study of Brent, UK. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 34 (2) , pp. 195-214. 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2008.00335.x

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This paper considers the impact of distance to polling station upon electoral turnout. Using polling station level data from a London borough, it examines three types of election – parliamentary, European and local elections – over a twenty year period. The UK is notable among western liberal democracies for its relatively large turnout gap – the percentage point difference between turnout at elections for the Westminster parliament compared to that for other institutions, including local councils and the supra-national European parliament. This research considers the hypothesis that in high information, high salience elections for the national parliament the costs of voting associated with travelling to a polling station to vote in person are perceived as either low or insignificant but that in low information, low salience elections, those costs are perceived as higher and may act as a deterrent upon voting. A series of multi-level models consider the relationships between the dependent variable, percentage turnout, and a range of independent variables, including socio-economic characteristics, marginality as well as the spatial context. We show that there is indeed a relationship between distance and voter turnout, and other spatial and contextual variables, which are stronger for the lower salience European and local elections than for the higher salience national elections. Hence we conclude that the local geography of the polling station can have a significant impact on voter turnout and that there should be a more strategic approach to the siting of polling stations.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
Uncontrolled Keywords: electoral geographies; voter turnout; multi-level modelling; GIS; distance; marginality
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0020-2754
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2022 12:37

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