Compared to national elections, European Parliament (EP) elections in general experience considerably lower turnout. In addition, especially Central and Eastern European countries (CEE) have a low turnout in EP elections. The presumed underlying reason for low turnout in EP elections is that voters believe that little is at stake compared to national elections, due to the lack of a government formation-process. This second-order election (SOE) theory has been the starting point for many studies on voting behaviour. However, recent developments have weakened the less at stake argument on which the theory rests. Given the fact that CEE countries share a communist past, this research examines whether an alternative to the SOE theory might be more appropriate. Based on survey data from Eurobarometer, a congruence analysis was performed to examine whether the Second-order Election (SOE) theory or the communist legacy best explains low turnout in EP elections in CEE countries. The results showed that although the people who experienced communist regimes are more sceptical towards the EU, they are also more likely to vote than younger generations. Moreover, sufficient information provision does not necessarily lead to high turnout. At the same time, low political interest is generally matched with low turnout in EP elections, while this effect is not observed in national elections. These results suggest that political interest is an important factor in the level of turnout. Therefore, policymakers should not only focus on the provision of information, but also at methods to spark people’s political interest in order to stimulate people to vote.

Dr. Asya Zhelyazkova, Prof.dr. Markus Haverland
Public Administration
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Sam de Fockert. (2022, June 30). European Parliament Elections: Low Interest or Low Trust?. Public Administration. Retrieved from