How does the average EU citizen vote if he or she is 18 or 34 or 80 years old? Does voting behaviour differ between Baby Boomers and Generation Y? Based on aggregated data from polls and exit polls which were published around the time of the European election 2019, we at Europe Elects tried to answer this question.
As a general trend, support for center-right EPP and national conservative ECR grows as the age of voter grows, while the Greens/EFA and left-wing GUE/NGL groups are more favoured by younger voters. But let’s delve into the results more deeply, group by group:
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The center-right EPP parties looks to be clearly stronger among older EU voters. While they come only second with less than 20% among voters under the age of 30 years, they come first in all cohorts above the age of 30. Among voters at the age of 70 and above the centre-right EPP parties enjoy average support of more than 30%.
The centre-left S&D is the strongest group among voters under the age of 30 and slightly more popular among older and first-time voters than among mid-aged voters in the European Union. There are, however, significant differences in this regard on the national level. While the Spanish PSOE and the German SPD are popular among older voters, the Labour Party in the UK is more popular among young voters.
The liberal ALDE parties are equally strong among all age groups. It can be speculated that young voters favour the ALDE parties for their pro-European and socially liberal views, while older voters, which have accumulated wealth during their work-life, favour the liberals for their reluctant stance on wealth redistribution.
The Greens/EFA parties are significantly stronger among young voters than among old voters. While they are the third largest force among people under the age of 25, they are only fourth among voters between the age of 25 and 35, fifth among voters of the ages of 35 to 60, and only sixth among voters older than 60 years. While almost 16% of the 18 to 25-year-old ones vote Greens/EFA, the share drops to only 4% among those who are 70 years and above.
The right-wing ENF/EAPN delivers one of the most surprising results regarding voting behaviour among different age groups. The support for the right doubles from the age of 18 to 35, but then it remains stable until the age of 60. From the age of 60, it drops back to 8%. It stands out that the working-age population seems to have higher rates of support for the anti-immigration ENF/EAPN than among those generations who are currently slowly integrating into the labour market and those who have left the labour market. This trend is quite consistent in all countries with ENF/EAPN presence.
The national-conservative ECR parties are especially popular among old voters. Below the age of 35, only 5% of EU voters cast their vote for an ECR party. This share rises to more than 10% among those who are 65 years and older. Many dominant ECR parties, like the Polish government party PiS, often promote values rooted in conservative Christianity like they were prominent across Europe in the 1950s, which may explain the support among older voters.
Left-wing GUE/NGL is especially popular among younger voters. As pointed out earlier, they share their high support among young voters with the Greens/EFA. Speculating about the reasons behind this, one could argue that young voters may be more susceptible to change than older voters, which is why the socially and economically progressive GUE/NGL and Greens/EFA are performing better among people.
This data presented here is based on exit polls and polls accounting for 78% of the EU28 electorate. While the numbers certainly give an indication about the general trend in EU voting behaviour in different age groups, some methodological weaknesses need to be pointed out. In some EU countries, there do not seem to exist data for voting behaviour in all. Moreover, voting behaviour is presented as average in age groups by the pollster. Albeit, these age groups are not congruent between different pollsters. This is why we resorted to presenting the data on a year-to-year basis ignoring differences within the different age groups. For example, we assumed that 24% support for party X among 18-24-year-old ones in a country equals 24% for party X among 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-, 22-, 23-, and 24-year-old ones.
We will update this article as soon as we have received additional data. The reasons given in this article on why certain groups of parties perform better in different age groups are based on the experience of our team members, but not necessarily grounded directly in the data. Some national parties may not fit in the description of their European Parliament group.