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.