12. Civic Engagement

Voter turnout in 2016-19 ranges from 91% in Australia, where electoral participation is compulsory, to 46.5% in Chile (Figure 12.2). On average, about two-thirds of people registered to vote in OECD countries cast a ballot in the last election (68.7%), a share that has remained stable since 2010-13. This stability masks gains of 5 or more percentage points in Austria, Canada, Colombia, Hungary and the Netherlands (mostly countries with above-average voter turnout rates already), and more substantial falls exceeding 7 percentage points in Japan, and 10 percentage points in Latvia and Slovenia.

The share of people who feel that they have a say in what the government does ranges from 9.6% in France to almost 70% in Lithuania and Greece, and is 34% for OECD countries on average (Figure 12.3). Conversely, 46% of people, on average, feel they have no say, and the remaining 20% are ambivalent. Nordic countries, Chile, Lithuania, Greece and the United States are the only OECD countries where the share of people declaring that they have a say in government exceeds the share of those who report having no say.

For most OECD countries, differences between men and women in voting behaviour and in feelings of having a say in what the government does are very small. Indeed, gender parity has been achieved for the OECD, on average. Where differences do exist, women tend to do better in a small majority of countries (Figure 12.4). The gender gap in favour of women is largest in Nordic countries and Korea, with Sweden recording the largest difference (where 47.9% of women, and 41.3% of men, feel they have a say in government). The Czech Republic, Japan and Hungary have the largest gender gaps in favour of men. In half of the 24 OECD countries for which data on self-reported voter turnout is available, slightly more women report going to the polls, ranging from less than 1 percentage point difference in Australia, Israel and Hungary up to 9 points in Lithuania. Gender gaps in Civic Engagement are not related: in countries in which more women vote, women’s sense of having a say in government is not necessarily higher than men’s, and vice versa.

Self-reported voter turnout among older people is higher than among their younger and middle-aged peers. In all countries for which data are available, young people aged 15-24 have the lowest share of voter turnout: 68% for OECD countries on average, versus 85% for people aged 54 or more (Figure 12.5). The age gap is larger in countries with lower overall levels of voter turnout, implying that country differences in political participation among youth account for most of the observed differences across countries.

For the OECD on average, age differences in feelings of having a say in government decisions are very small. Nevertheless, some countries do have sizeable age gaps (Figure 12.6). In some cases, older people are less likely to feel that they have a say in government, relative to younger age groups (e.g. Korea, Estonia, Poland, Slovenia, the Slovak Republic and Austria). By contrast, there are countries in which older generations are the most likely to feel that they have a say (e.g. New Zealand, Lithuania, Greece, the United States, the United Kingdom (England), and Australia). In Chile, the middle-aged are the most likely to feel that they have a say in government decisions.

In 20 out of 24 OECD countries, people with higher levels of education are more likely to vote (Figure 12.7). On average, 84% of people who have completed tertiary education say they voted, compared to 78% of those educated to secondary level only.


[3] Boarini, R. and M. Diaz (2015), “Cast a Ballot or Protest in the Street - Did our Grandparents Do More of Both?: An Age-Period-Cohort Analysis in Political Participation”, 2015, No. 02, OECD Statistics Working Papers, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/5js636gn50jb-en (accessed on 11 September 2019).

[1] Hoskins, B., J. Janmaat and G. Melis (2017), “Tackling inequalities in political socialisation: A systematic analysis of access to and mitigation effects of learning citizenship at school”, Social Science Research, Vol. 68, pp. 88-101, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2017.09.001.

[2] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division (2019), SDG Indicators: Global indicator framework for the Sustainable Development Goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, http://unstats.un.org/sdgs/indicators/indicators-list/ (accessed on 12 February 2019).

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