Turnout in elections is falling — but this is not just an issue for the European Parliament.
Despite the growing importance of the European Parliament, turnout in European elections has declined over the years, from 62% in 1979 to 43% in 2004. Some claim that this weakens the Parliament’s democratic mandate. Yet the turnout is no lower than for the US House of Representatives — and few would claim that it is not representative! Even on a modest turnout, the elections produce a parliament that is representative of the main strains of public opinion. This is especially true in the case of the European Parliament, as it is elected by proportional representation.
In any case, a decline of 19 percentage points over a 30-year period is smaller than the declines in turnout for national elections in most European countries over a similar period (or in some cases, even shorter). And comparable trends can be found outside Europe too.
The decline in electoral turnout across the world is worrying: all democrats should be concerned. But it is not something peculiar to the European Parliament. It is a common challenge at local, national and European level.
Falling turnout in national elections
European Parliament (1979-2009): -19.0%19
Some examples outside Europe