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Voter apathy defined politics for a generation. Now it's been exposed as a myth, everything must change

A new study suggests that turnout in recent elections could have been significantly higher than official figures suggest Credit: Justin Tallis/AFP

It was the story behind the shock result of the 2017 election: the underestimation of people who do not normally vote, but who turned out in force and denied Theresa May her majority. Overall, official estimates recorded a marginal increase in turnout from 66.1 per cent in 2015 to 68.7 per cent, but among young people there was a surge that helped deliver a hung parliament: turnout increased from 44 per cent in 2015 to as much as 64 per cent

For more than a decade, voter apathy has been the undercurrent in all election campaigns. But now a study by Oxford and Manchester universities claims that voter apathy is not as pervasive in the UK – and other countries including the US and Sweden – as was thought.

Turnout in the UK in every election since 1979 is on average 9 percentage points higher than official estimates, the study says. This would put turnout in 2017 in the high 70s, and the notoriously...

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