POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Voter Apathy

Voter apathy refers to a lack of interest in participating in elections by certain groups of voters. One side-effect of voter apathy can be low voter turnout on election day if voting is non-compulsory. In countries or areas with compulsory elections, voter apathy may manifest itself in the form of a high proportion of spoilt ballots or donkey votes.

Two possible causes of voter fatigue are:

  • Alienation - this refers to the sense that voters feel like the political system does not work for them and any attempt to influence it will be a fruitless exercise.
  • Voter fatigue - this means that elections are simply deemed to be occurring too often.
    • After having been through the European Parliament election of 2014, the UK General Election of 2015, and the Brexit Referendum of 2016, a woman responded to the news that Theresa May had called a snap election in 2017: “You’re joking. Not another one! Oh for God’s sake! Honestly, I can’t stand this. There’s too much politics going on at the moment. Why does she need to do it?”
See also: Voter Fatigue, Voter Turnout

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