7 lowest general election turnout rates since 1945

Tony Blair

The seven lowest general election turnout rates since the end of World War Two. Which elections make the list?

7th – 1970

Harold Wilson Interview

The 1970 election was one of many fought between the Conservatives’ Edward Heath and Labour’s Harold Wilson. The Conservatives won the election with a small thirty-seat majority, which led to Heath’s first and only period as prime minster. The turnout rate stood at 72%, the seventh worst since 1945.

6th – 1997

In this year, Tony Blair was swept to power with a landslide, however, turnout was just 71.4% - down by over six percentage points in just five years. While this election is significant for New Labour’s striking victory, it is also important because it is the most recent election where the turnout rate was above 70%.

5th – 2017

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at an eventBritain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at an event

The most recent election was many things, but it also had the 5th worst turnout rate in UK general elections since 1945 of just 68.7%. However, it is important to note that it had the highest turnout rate since 1997, which shows that UK democracy is moving in the right direction.

4th – 2015

Two years ago, David Cameron won a surprise overall majority for this party. Turnout at the election was up from turnout in 2010, standing at 66.1%.

3rd – 2010

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron with his mother Mary Cameron in the royal boxBritain's Prime Minister David Cameron with his mother Mary Cameron in the royal box

Five years before that, in 2010, Labour lost its majority and the UK faced a hung parliament, which resulted in the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition. Turnout at the election was 65.1%.

2nd – 2005

In terms of low turnout rates, the second-place prize goes to the 2005 election, in which Tony Blair secured a third term as prime minister. The dismal turnout rate was 61.4%.

1st - 2001

Four years after New Labour first came to power, the party secured a second term in 2001 by beating William Hague's Conservatives. The election was dubbed the “quiet election” for the limited changes in seats, according to the BBC. Turnout at the election was a depressing low 59.4%, most likely due to the strong probability that Labour was always going to win and that the Conservative made very little impact. The low figure is significant on its own for being the lowest turnout rate since 1945, but also for the fact that the rate dropped a whole twelve percentage points within just four years.


Turnout figures are based off the Wikipedia page for UK general elections, which can be found here.