Electoral participation is on the decline in Europe. According to Eurostat, turnout in national elections in EU member states decreased by about 10 percentage points from 1990 to 2013 and turnout in European Parliament elections decreased more drastically by 14 percentage points since 2004. Does this mean that Europeans are losing interest in politics altogether?

Despite these declining turnout rates, our EU-wide survey found that interest in politics remains high across generations. Three out of four Europeans say they are very or somewhat interested in politics. 73% of Millennials say they are generally interested in politics, only 6 and 8 percentage points lower than Gen Xs (79%) and Baby Boomers (81%).

When we compared across Europe, we found that interest in politics is slightly weaker in France and the UK; 31% of French and 29% of Britons say they are not interested in politics. So is voter turnout lower in these countries?

When we compared political interest to voter turnout, we found no such pattern. In fact in France, where political interest is lower than Poland (10 percentage points), voter turnout in national elections is nearly twice as high.

So what could explain the disparity between voter turnout and Europeans’ interest in politics? Some findings point to Europeans’ lack of trust in political institutions to explain low turnout. Other theories suggest people’s shift from participatory to observational interest in elections is a natural phenomenon of mature democracies, or that current methods of voting are not up to standard with modern technological advancements. For example, would there be a higher voter turnout if there was the option to vote conveniently from one’s smartphone? Perhaps implementing new technologies like e-voting or mobile voting could encourage more Europeans who are interested in politics to vote.

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