• 19 January 2023
  • Sofia Ovelli
  • 0

Giammarco Frattoli

In the run-up to the European Parliament elections in 2024, it is inevitable to try elaborating new strategies and good practices aimed to encourage more and more people to participate. First of all, it is fundamental to take into account the past elections results and observe how European citizens’ voting behaviour has changed over the years. This article, the first in a series of 3 posts scheduled every fifteen days, represents the firs step of a desk research aimed to analyse the voting process and to consider the possibility of stimulating a new positive voting trend, especially among young citizens.

The first article starts with the analysis of the 2019 election results, compared with the past elections, and their implications. Consequently, the second will address young voters’ engagement and their role in the European elections. Finally, the third post will focus on inclusion and civic engagement of young citizens with fewer opportunities in relation to the voting process, and it will include four interviews of foreign-born-citizens on the matter.


Via Unsplash / Phil Scroggs

2019: the reversal of a trend?

Although the influence of the European Parliament has been increasing over the years, post-election surveys up to 2014 showed that the percentage of those voting had been fallen in every election, from 62% in 1979’s inaugural direct elections to 42.61% in 2014, which has been the lowest-ever turnout in the history of the UE. In addition, it emerged that the greatest abstainers were people aged under 25, despite their general positive opinion about the Union.[1]

However, in the last European Parliament elections something changed: the overall turnout was 50.66%, way higher than in 2014. Such a turnout had not been seen since 1994. 19 out of 28 Member States showed an increase in voter turnout since 2014, especially Poland (+21.85 pp), Romania (+18.76 pp), Spain (+16.92 pp), Austria (+14.41 pp), Hungary (+14.39 pp) and Germany (+13.28 pp) as well as Czechia (+10.52 pp) and Slovakia (+9.69 pp), where turnout, traditionally very low, has never been higher.[2] On the other hand, turnout fell in eight countries, though by less than 4 percentage points. The most significant decrease in turnout was registered in Bulgaria (-3.2 pp), followed by Portugal (-2.92 pp) and Ireland (-2.74 pp).[3] It is also important to bear in mind that voting is compulsory in five countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Cyprus, and Greece. Among these, Cyprus was the only country with an increase in voter turnout compared to 2014 results.[4]


Via Unsplash / Antoine Schibler

The post-electoral Eurobarometer survey, one of the most comprehensive European quantitative surveys available, focused on citizens’ voting behaviour and motivation in the 2019 elections. It showed that voters in 2019 were generally motivated by an increased sense of civic duty, mentioned by 52% of respondents, as well as by a strengthened support for the EU. Brexit also played a role in encouraging people to participate, as 22% of respondents cited it as an influence in their decision to vote.[5] 

Observed on average at EU level, the study identifies economy and growth (44%) and climate change (37%) as the main issues that drove this voting boost. While the economy was the biggest issue for voters in 16 Member States, climate change was the first in 8 countries overall, marking a gradual changing of priorities from the past. Overall, meaningful incentives, cited by respondents, were also human rights and democracy promotion (37%), the way the EU should be working in the future (36%) and immigration (34%). Another aspect to point out is that more than two-thirds of respondents (68%) in 2019 thought their country had benefited from EU membership, which was the highest level registered since 1983. What is more, about 56% of Europeans felt that their voice counted in the EU, which represented the most positive result for this indicator since 2002.[6]

To conclude, the most interesting result of the 2019 elections was, in fact, that the turnout was driven increasingly by citizens who would not always or traditionally vote, as the relative proportion of respondents stating that ‘they always vote’ decreased by 6 points from 2014.[7] Among them, the younger voters had a particular impact on the overall turnout increase, driving the voting boost, as it will be fully explained in the next article dedicated to the young voters’ role.


Via Unsplash / Manny Becerra

[1] Eurobarometer survey of the European Parliament (EP/EB 91.5), September 2019, published by the “Public Opinion Monitoring Unit Directorate-General for Communication”, European Parliament, Brussels, European Union.




[5] Eurobarometer survey of the European Parliament (EP/EB 91.5), September 2019, published by the “Public Opinion Monitoring Unit Directorate-General for Communication”, European Parliament, Brussels, European Union.


[7] Ibidem.