United in apathy and distraction

WHERRY: Voter turnout philosophies and realities in Canada

Scott Payne asks David Frum for his thoughts on Canadian politics, a discussion of voter turnout philosophy ensues.

Declining voter turnouts are an outcome of changes in modern social life. They are the political cognates of declining church membership, declining participation in civic clubs, and so on. From Oslo to San Diego, we’re just no “joiners” the way people used to be. Maybe it would be better if we were. But don’t go looking to the specific defects of Canadian politicians to explain a phenomenon you see in almost every advanced country.

A quick look at relatively comparable democracies—excluding Australia and Belgium where voting is compulsory—shows there’s something to this. Though turnout in Denmark and Spain has remained relatively stable, there have been declines of one kind or another in England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, IrelandIsraelItaly, JapanNetherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.

Canada fares poorly though when those turnouts are compared.

Denmark 86.6%
Sweden 82%
Italy 80.5%
Netherlands 80.4%
New Zealand 79.5%
Germany 77.7%
Norway 77.4%
Spain 75.3%
Greece 74.1%
Japan 67.5%
Ireland 67%
Finland 65%
Israel 64.7%
France 60.4%
Portugal 59.7%
Canada 59.5%
Switzerland 48.3%

For whatever it is worth, the vast majority of those above would seem to have some history with coalition government. Greece currently has a majority government, Portugal, like Canada, has a minority government.

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