2019 European elections: Record turnout driven by young people

  • Largest increases in participation is in under 25 and 25-39 age groups 
  • More people believe that their vote counts 
  • State of the economy and the environment were the two main priorities of voters 

The high turnout in the 2019 European elections was driven by a surge in participation by young people, according to a Eurobarometer survey commissioned by the European Parliament in June.

The results of the post-electoral Eurobarometer survey, one of the most comprehensive quantitative surveys on the last European elections publicly available, show that the turnout increase was powered mostly by the younger generation across the EU. Specifically young citizens under 25 years (+14 percentage points) as well as the 25–39 year-olds (+12 percentage points) turned out in greater numbers than before.

Overall turnout at European elections was 50.6% – the highest since 1994. 19 Member States registered increases in voter turnout since 2014, especially Poland, Romania, Spain, Austria, Hungary and Germany as well as Slovakia and Czechia, where turnout is traditionally very low. Meanwhile turnout fell in only eight countries, though by less than 3 percentage points. Voting is compulsory in five countries – Belgium, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Cyprus and Greece.

The very significant boost in voter turn-out in May’s European elections shows that people, especially the younger generation, value their democratic rights and believe that the European Union is stronger when acting in unison to address their concerns,” commented David Sassoli (S&D, IT) , President of the newly elected Parliament.

Brexit played a role too, with 22% of respondents citing it as influencing their decision to vote, at least ‘to some extent”

Results show that voters in the 2019 European elections were also motivated by an increased sense of civic duty, a rising sentiment that voting can make things change, as well as voters’ strengthened support for the EU. Observed on average at EU level, the study finds economy and growth (44%) as well as climate change (37%) as top drivers for voting. Significant motivators were also human rights and democracy (37%), the way the EU should be working in the future (36%) and immigration (34%). While the economy was the biggest issue for voters in 16 Member States, climate change led the list in eight countries overall.

These elections saw a younger, more pro-European and engaged group voting in increased numbers. This translates into greater legitimacy for the European Parliament and empowers MEPs when approving the new European Commission and holding it to account over the next five years”, said Sassoli.

More than two-thirds of respondents (68%) across EU28 think their country has benefited from EU membership, the joint highest level recorded since 1983. More than half of Europeans (56%) also agree that their voice counts in the EU, a seven-point increase from February–March 2019, and the most positive result for this indicator since 2002.

In terms of voter awareness of this year’s elections, 44% of respondents recalled seeing or hearing messages from the European Parliament encouraging citizens to vote. This recall is highest among respondents who actually voted in the elections (50%), but also 39% of non-voters recall having seen or heard elements of Parliament’s go-to-vote message. An important finding of the survey is that turnout in the 2019 European elections was driven increasingly by citizens who would not always or traditionally vote, as the relative proportion of respondents stating that ‘they always vote’ fell by 6 points compared to 2014.

The survey results demonstrate the link between citizens’ conviction that their voice counts in the EU and their participation in the European elections matters.

Note to the editors:

The post-electoral survey of the European Parliament was conducted as Eurobarometer survey 91.5. 27,464 respondents were interviewed face-to-face by Kantar for the European Parliament in all 28 EU Member States, drawn from the general population aged 15 or more. Post-election questions were filtered on respondents in the age of voting 18+ (except 16+ in Austria and Malta, 17+ in Greece). The fieldwork took place from 7 – 26 June 2019.

A full report as well as all results and data tables will be published by the European Parliament and can be found by clicking here.