At Redfield & Wilton Strategies, we recently asked the British public about their views on a variety of electoral reform topics, including proposals to switch to a Proportional Representation voting system and to extend voting rights to different demographics. Here, we examine questions about the act of voting itself: if it should be compulsory, if election day should be a bank holiday, and if the Government should introduce mandatory voter ID laws.
In countries such as Australia and Belgium, voting is compulsory and individuals who do not vote can be fined. When asked if a similar system should be implemented in the UK, over half (54%) of Britons said no, voting in elections should not be made compulsory, with a fine for those who do not submit a ballot. Around a third (31%) of respondents said voting should be compulsory.
The greatest support for compulsory voting comes from respondents aged 65 and over, 37% of whom say voting in elections should be made compulsory. Similar proportions of 2019 Conservative (53%) and 2019 Labour (52%) voters say voting in elections should not be compulsory.
On the question of an election day bank holiday, we find 54% of the British public would support making an election day a bank holiday in order to encourage more people to vote. A fifth of respondents say they would oppose (20%) or neither support nor oppose (22%) making election day a bank holiday.
Britons’ support varies tremendously with age: 70% of 18-to-24-year-olds say they would support making an election day bank holiday. Meanwhile, among respondents aged 65 and over, 35% would support and 36% would oppose establishing an election day bank holiday. Such high levels of support for an election day bank holiday among younger age groups may reflect general desire to have a day off work while older voters—many of whom are retired—may see a bank holiday as meaningless.
61% of 2019 Labour voters say they would support making an election day bank holiday, a measure which former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said he supported. 47% of 2019 Conservative voters say they would be supportive.
Some countries, such as Mexico, ban the sale of alcohol on election days to ensure that voters are not impaired and, until very recently, several US states upheld booze bans on election day. A plurality of respondents say they would oppose a ban on the sale of alcohol on the day of the General Election, while a notable quarter (24%) would approve of such a ban.
A plurality of 18-to-24-year-olds (34%) would support a ban on the sale of alcohol on the day of a General Election against 28% who would oppose a ban. Approximately a fifth (21%) of 2019 Conservative voters and a third (31%) of 2019 Labour voters would support a ban on the sale of alcohol on General Election day.
Lastly, the current UK Government is planning to make photo ID compulsory for all UK elections from 2023, a measure which has considerable support among the public: a plurality (44%) of respondents say they would support the introduction of mandatory voter ID laws in General Elections. 20% would oppose, whereas 27% neither support nor oppose.
Support for mandatory voter ID laws is somewhat higher among Conservative voters (56%) than among Labour voters (45%), and varies significantly between 36% of 35-to-44-year-olds and 59% of 65-and-overs.
In the 2019 General Election, a third (33%) of the British public did not vote. Voter turnout could be increased in the next election through implementing measures such as an election day bank holiday or compulsory voting, though it seems the British public would be more in favour of the former rather than the latter. Some worry that mandatory voter ID laws could decrease voter turnout, though others say it will prevent voter fraud and thus strengthen trust in the electoral system, which may explain why a plurality of respondents are in support. The British public would generally oppose a ban on the sale of alcohol on the day of a General Election, but a sizable minority would support such a ban, including a plurality of 18-to-24-year-olds.