Electorate calls for text voting

Research shows voting by SMS message would address apathy

More than a third of the UK electorate would be more likely to vote in an election if they could do so via their mobile phone. In the 25-34 age group, more than half of respondents, 53%, said they would be more likely to vote by text message.

In an exclusive survey, jointly carried out by Populus and i-movo , 36% of voters said they would be more likely to bother to register their interest if text messaging was an option.

The survey of more than 1,000 people found that this method of voting would be particularly popular amongst young adults, traditionally the most apathetic group: 49% of voters under the age of 45 said they would be more likely to vote if they could do so securely by SMS.

While women would be more likely than men to vote in this way, SMS voting would be most popular in the South East, North of England and Scotland.

The exclusive survey follows another disappointing turnout in the two key by-elections held last week.

Populus interviewed a random sample of 1,002 adults aged 18+ by telephone between July 9th & 11th 2004. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to be representative of all adults.

In the Birmingham Hodge Hill election, turnout was just 37.9%, while in the seat of Leicester South, it was a slightly better 41.5%.

The Government has previously experimented with text messaging, along with email and interactive TV, as a way of improving election turnout.

“The evidence is that the way to increase turnout significantly is to provide a range of different ways for people to vote. This research shows that voting by SMS could play a key role in raising turnout among young voters – whose alienation from the process is currently one of the biggest problems our democracy faces” said Andrew Cooper, managing director at Populus. “In previous SMS trials, voters have complained the process was too complicated,” said David Tymm, CEO of i-movo. “These trials and this survey provides powerful evidence that if SMS voting is both easy to use and secure, voters will use it. SMS also addresses the concerns of some who believe that all votes should be cast on and not before election day.”

According to the BBC, 90% of postal votes for the elections of June 10 were cast a week before polling day.

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