Richard Willis's Blog

First for local news and first for comment

Are Turnout and Marginality of Wards Related?

It is often said that our current electoral system causes people to feel that their vote is wasted in safe seats and that turnout is higher in marginal seats. I thought it might be interesting to have a look at turnout in Reading Borough wards in the local elections. The following was the turnout by ward, from highest to lowest:

   Thames – 78.1% (Safe Conservative)

   Peppard – 74.6% (Safe Conservative)

   Tilehurst – 67.5% (Lib Dem/Conservative marginal)

   Caversham – 67.2% (Safe Conservative)

   Park – 66.3% (Three way Green/Labour/Conservative marginal)

   Southcote – 65.3% (Labour/Conservative marginal)

   Kentwood – 64.5% (Safe Conservative)

   Minster – 61.9% (Labour/Conservative marginal)

   Norcot – 60.9% (Safe Labour)

   Redlands – 59.4% (Reasonably safe Lib Dem)

   Battle – 56.2% (Safe Labour)

   Church – 54.7% (Conservative/Labour marginal)

   Katesgrove – 54.4% (Lib Dem/Labour marginal)

   Whitley – 53.9% (Safe Labour)

   Abbey – 53.5% (Labour/Conservative marginal)

I considered the results over the last three local elections to assess how marginal a ward could be considered. It is notable that there appears to be little correlation between turnout and marginality. There is a better (but not absolute) correlation between the political complexion of wards, with the top two being Conservative and the bottom two Labour held.

Overall I don’t think much can be concluded and certainly it is not the case that a marginal always produces a higher turnout.


May 14, 2010 - Posted by | Local


  1. When you compare a ward thats safe one year with another year when theres a chance of change; thats when I think you will notice an increase in voters.

    Comment by Adrian Windisch | May 14, 2010 | Reply

    • That doesn’t explain why Abbey is at the bottom of the list. It was more marginal last time than this time, mainly due to the improved performance of the 3rd place Lib Dems this time round.

      Comment by Jonathan | May 14, 2010 | Reply

  2. Ooh Jonathan Jonathan, me thinks you are trying too hard….to explain I mean. Has Bet sent Thank You card yet?

    Comment by Abbey supporter | May 14, 2010 | Reply

  3. Interesting view

    Here in Yorkshire we had over 70% in our most safe seat and the LDs in theirs
    In our case the candidate was the Council Leader and the LDs a local Mayor and PC in a nearby Constituency [ where he came 3rd ]
    So personallities play a part as well as good organisation.

    Our 2 lowest were both safe Labour although in one we had the best vote for many years with our youngest candidate

    Comment by Mark Andrew | May 14, 2010 | Reply

  4. There is an almost exact correlation in those figures between income and turn-out

    Comment by Jonny | May 15, 2010 | Reply

  5. Clearly it depends on more than one factor. Older people are more likely to vote than younger, so wards with lots of students will have a lower %. Wealthier wards are likely to have older residents. So come on young people, get voting!

    I looked at the Park results over a few years and it wasn’t conclusive.

    In 2006 safe Lab 42%. In 2007 it was a close C/L race, 39%. 2008 close L/G race and 43% 2010 was a General Election year so was higher anyway, 66%.

    2001 Reading East safe Lab 58%
    2005 as closely fought, 60% but nationally Lab expected to win.
    2010 safe Cons, 66% but nationally great interest in change.

    I think most people don’t follow elections as we would hope, many are not even aware of them. This one was different, in the news for months, but still 33% not voting.

    Comment by Adrian Windisch | May 15, 2010 | Reply

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