Do votes count?

Emma Goldman and quote: "if voting changed anything they'd make it illegal"

52% of the UK population do not vote

David Cameron’s Conservative government secured the backing of 24.4% of the 2015 electorate and just 17.6% of the UK population.

More than four out five people in the UK did not vote Conservative. More than half the UK population (52%) did not (or could not) vote at all.

In Scotland the SNP won 56 of the 59 seats with 50% of the vote, 35.7% of the electorate and 28.3% of the population.


Turnout at the 2015 general election was 66.1% (65.1% in 2010). There were 30,698,210 (30.7 million) votes cast. The Total electorate was 46,425,386 (46.4 million). The UK population is 64.1 million.

So, the electorate represented just over 72% of the population. Voters represented just under 48% of the population.


The parties with the highest number (and %) of votes were:

  • Conservative 11,334,920 (36.9%)
  • Labour 9,347,326 (30.4%)
  • UKIP 3,881,129 (12.6%)
  • Liberal Democrat 2,415,888 (7.9%)
  • Scottish Nationalist Party 1,454,436 (4.7%
  • Green 1,157,613 (3.8%)


The parties winning the highest number (and %) of seats were:

  • Conservative 331 (50.9%)
  • Labour 232 (35.7%)
  • SNP 56 (8.6%)
  • Liberal Democrat 8 (1.2%)
  • Democratic Unionist 8 (1.2%)
  • Sinn Fein 4 (0.6%)
  • Plaid Cymru 3 (0.5%)
  • Social Democratic & Labour Party 2 (0.3%)
  • UKIP 1 (0.15%)
  • Green 1 (0.15%

Real support

Party support as % of electorate (and % of the population)

  • Conservative 24.4% (17.6%)
  • Labour 20% (14.5%)
  • UKIP 8.3% (6.1%)
  • Green 2.5% (1.9%)

For the SNP the figures would be 3.1% (2.3%) but that would be a distortion as they only stood in Scotland. Compared with the Scottish electorate (4.2 million) and population (5.3 million) the SNP secured the support of 50% of voters, 35.7% of the electorate and 28.3% of the population.

Scottish independence

It’s worth flagging up here that in the referendum for independence on 18 September 2014, the losing YES vote secured 1,617,989 votes – or 163,553 (11.2%) more than voted for the SNP in the general election 2015.

The SNP has presented its victory as a signal that there should be another vote but arguably SNP support has fallen.

Turnout was particularly high in Scotland at 71.1%. Two seats, Dunbartonshire East and Renfrewshire East (both SNP) saw turnout above 80%.

Constituency size

Scotland has three of the smallest constituencies, with the smallest Na h-Eileanan an Iar having about 21,750 electors. It just elected the SNP on 8,662 votes, which was 54% of the votes, about 40% of the electorate.

By contrast, one of the biggest constituencies in the UK is the Isle of Wight, with a population of more then 130,000. On the Wight (new window) reports the election of the Conservative MP Andrew Turner saying: “Mr Turner received 28,591 votes. That’s 40.67 % of the votes cast – and 26.28% of the voting population of the Island.”

Closest result?

Without going through each constituency result in detail I am not sure which constituency had the closest margin between victor and second place. But one I did see was Croydon Central, where the Conservative and Labour candidate both got 43% of the vote.

The Tory, Gavin Barwell (22,753), beat Sarah Jones (22,588) by 165 votes. That is just 0.7% difference. But the winner takes it all.

Proportion of the vote

The 2015 election also saw a new record set – that of the MP elected with the lowest percentage of the vote. Alasdair McDonnell was elected South Belfast’s SDLP MP despite more three-quarters of voters voting against him. He won with just 24.5% of the vote, which was 9,560 votes.

This was on a 60% turn out, giving McDonnell the support of about 15% of the electorate. As a proportion of the population it would be single figures.

I’m an amateur psephologist but, to me, the election statistics show Britain’s electoral system – and democracy itself – is bust.

Media focus

From the media’s perspective it seems to me that the fact that more than half the population is excluded or excludes itself from general elections deserves coverage. More people are not voting than voting, so why is so much airtime and so many column inches devoted to those who vote?

The media needs to shift its focus, to get more balance. That means OfCom too needs to change its election rules. Non-voters deserve equal coverage.

Links (new windows)

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