The government’s new Voter ID laws risk significantly undermining political participation, according to new polling commissioned by the cross party think tank Demos.
The think tank argues that the new laws mean that both voters who are traditionally engaged and those who are traditionally disengaged from the democratic process are now less likely to vote.
The polling, based on a nationally representative sample of over 2,000 people, found that:
- 8% of low income people don’t have ID compared to 3% among the entire UK population. Extrapolated across England, that would equate to approximately 1.1 million low-income people.
- Of people without ID, 77% are in social grades C2, D and E.
- Of people who don’t have ID, 39% think voting in local elections is either very important or important and 32% think voting in local elections is either not at all important or not very important.
- BME groups are 19 percentage points less likely than white people to think voting in local elections is very important or important (54% vs 73%); more specifically, less than half of Black people (49%) think voting in local elections is important. BME groups are 7 percentage points more likely than white people to think voting in local elections is not at all important or not very important (19% vs 12%).
- People from lower socio-economic backgrounds are 14 percentage points less likely than people from higher socio-economic backgrounds to think voting in local elections is very important or important (64% vs 78%). People from lower socio-economic backgrounds are 8 percentage points more likely than people from higher socio-economic backgrounds to think voting in local elections is not at all important or not very important (17% vs 9%).
New laws introduced by the government mean that voters going to the polls for the local elections on 4th May will now need to show photo ID at polling stations. The same rules will also apply to Police and Crime Commissioner elections, parliamentary by-elections. From October 2023, the same rules will apply to general elections.
This has prompted warnings that voters who don’t have the correct ID will be discouraged from voting, with certain groups, such as ethnic minorities, disproportionately affected.
Demos says that their polling results confirm these fears, and are calling on the government to ensure low income and traditionally disenfranchised voters are not deterred from the democratic process.
Stephen Walcott, Researcher at Demos, said:
“Our polling shows that, as expected, groups traditionally marginalised from the political process are already less likely to view voting as important. The government’s measures will further disenfranchise these groups and simply lead to more disillusionment. Less expected is that among those who do see voting as an important function, a significant number of them won’t be able to. The government has somehow managed to disenfranchise people at both ends of the scale.
“The government must rethink its Voter ID policy. We need to eliminate political exclusion and ensure the system attracts participation, rather than undermines it. As things stand May 4th could mark an historic low for political participation.”