I have noticed this image in social media recently:

Non-voters outnumbered the supporters of every single political party in 2010


  • Non-voters outnumbered the supporters of every single political party in 2010
  • Did not vote: 15.9m - these people could change everything
  • Tories: 10.7m
  • Labour: 8.6m
  • Lib Dems: 6.8m
  • Other: 3.5m

The image does not cite a source for its information and after an (admittedly brief) Googling exercise I was not able to find a source which provided actual numbers (although some secondary sources gave percentages).

Is the assertion that "non-voters outnumbered the supporters of every single political party" true?

  • 3
    How is a "supporter" of a political party defined? Is it limited to those who voted for that party? Can it include those who did not or can not vote for a party, but agree with its platform or in some other way encourage voting for that party? Does it take into account those who don't like the party, but vote for it as the least of three evils? Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 15:03
  • 3
    @iamnotmaynard looking at the figures supporter of a party means voted for a party
    – mmmmmm
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 18:31

1 Answer 1


BBC 2010 election page gives a summary. The data can be found at the Electoral Commission which oversees the votes.

Party           Seats   Gain Loss  Net    Votes     %    
Conservative      307   100    3    +97 10,726,614  36.1
Labour            258   3     94    -91  8,609,527  29.0
Liberal Democrat   57   8     13     -5  6,836,824  23.0

These numbers are on a turnout of 65.1%, which is the sum of all valid votes. Thus, 100 - 65.1 = 34.9% did not vote.

Turnout was 29,691,380 - this is all valid votes. So those not voting (including spoilt ballots and invalid postal votes) = 29,691,380 * 349/651 = 15,917,499.

From the Electoral Commission document

The UK electorate at the 2010 general election was almost 45.6 million

This is the number registered to vote, thus matching the graphic.

  • 1
    Details of how turnout is calculated at: electoralcommission.org.uk/our-work/our-research/electoral-data - it's total number of registered voters. Also contains complete original data matching the above Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 15:02
  • 6
    @1006a In the UK electoral registration is legally compulsory but rarely enforced, and in recent years has become more bureaucratic by moving from a household to an individual level. To make things more complicated, some UK-resident non-UK citizens should also register and can vote (Irish and Commonwealth citizens) but do not. Some people are registered in more than one place (e.g. students), but can only vote once in a single election, which will reduce apparent turnout of registered voters. Dead people often stay on the lists for some time (they are not allowed to vote)
    – Henry
    Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 19:01
  • 11
    @Henry "Dead people... are not allowed to vote." And yet zombies are very rarely turned away from polling stations. It's the scandal nobody talks about. Commented Apr 19, 2017 at 21:31
  • 2
    @Alexander They do less well at actually choosing a government though... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – IMSoP
    Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 9:50
  • 3
    @DavidRicherby: The (vanishingly small, by the way) zombie population of the UK is well educated about election law and know they would be turned away if they tried to vote. Therefore they don't even bother. The small number of actual rejections is a sign of a system that (at least in this respect) works! Commented Apr 20, 2017 at 10:51

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