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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May, 2005, 11:09 GMT 12:09 UK
Low turnout 'not due to apathy'
Woman at polling booth
Many non-voters are interested in politics but are put off by politicians
A survey of non-voters in the general election has found that a lack of trust in politicians rather than apathy was the biggest factor behind low turnout.

Nearly half of 1,000 people questioned said they were interested in politics but felt politicians did not listen.

Turn-out by eligible voters in May was up, but by only 2% to 61%.

The independent commission behind the study said political leaders need to look to 'new, more creative mechanisms' to re-engage people in democracy.

Members of the commission are meeting in Cardiff to discuss the findings.

It is not good enough to blame low turnouts on voter apathy
Helena Kennedy QC

The falling numbers of people who turn up at polling booths on election day has long been a cause of concern to politicians.

The government has declared a long-term goal of providing more choice of voting methods in the hope that this will increase the numbers prepared to cast their vote.

But the independent electoral study, the Power Inquiry, set up by the Rowntree Trust charity, said more needs to be done to encourage people to turn out on polling days.

Polling booth
The government wants to increase voter turnout at elections

Its survey of 1,025 people in the UK who were registered to vote, but who chose not to, found 42% of non-voters in Wales were interested or very interested in politics.

A slightly larger number, (44%) also said they would be encouraged to vote if politicians' promises "could be trusted".

Only 15% cited apathy as a reason for not voting.

Power Inquiry chair Helena Kennedy QC said: "It is not good enough to blame low turnouts on voter apathy.

"Non-voters in Wales and the rest of the UK very clearly care about politics, they just don't trust the politicians or the processes by which politicians claim their mandates.

"Above all, they don't feel that they have any real influence."

Members of the Power Inquiry commission are meeting in Cardiff to hear evidence from Electoral Commission in Wales and a director of Charter 88.

The hearing will also take evidence from former Plaid Cymru MP Simon Thomas, who lost his seat in the election, Conservative Shadow Transport Secretary Alan Duncan, and Labour Party General Secretary Matt Carter.

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