Sheffield election turnout to do with 'wealth, class and age'

Voting took place in Sheffield last week.
Voting took place in Sheffield last week.
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Low turnout in last week’s local and mayoral elections was more to do with class, affluence and age than the political issues going on in Sheffield at the moment, according to a leading academic.

Voting expert Professor Charles Pattie from the University of Sheffield said that residents in more wealthy areas such as Dore and Totley and Nether Edge and Sharrow will be more likely to vote because they are generally better off and older.

While residents in less affluent wards such as Darnall tend to stay at home - particularly if they don’t back the dominant party in that area.

In Dore and Totley 47 per cent of registered voters turned out - returning Liberal Democrat Councillor Martin Smith with a lead of more than 2,300 votes.

Meanwhile in Nether Edge and Sharrow turnout was at 43.46 per cent - returning Green Councillor Alison Teal with 3,896 votes, despite a strong push from Labour’s Nadia Jama, with 2503 votes.

In Darnall Ward - a Labour stronghold - turnout was at a little over 30 per cent, returning Councillor Zahira Naz with 3,057 votes. The Conservatives came in second with 534 votes.

Professor Pattie said: “In general terms the more senior the body being elected then the higher the turnout. So you will often find that where a local election falls on the same day as a general election then turnout for locals will be higher - people think that because they are there anyway then they’ll vote in the locals as well.

“People who vote tend to be older and more affluent, so the voting patterns in the local elections directly map class and affluence across the city, with turnout higher in more middle class areas.

“If you look at somewhere where Labour won strongly over the Conservatives such as Darnall Ward, the Conservative vote tends to stay at home because they’re not going to get what they want.”

From the 28 Sheffield wards, around half had turnouts between 20 and 29 per cent, with around a quarter with turnouts of 40 per cent or more.

The highest turnout across the city was Ecclesall Ward with 49.64 per cent - returning Liberal Democrat leader Shaffaq Mohammed with 3,614 votes - almost double the Labour vote.

Meanwhile, the lowest turnout across Sheffield was City Ward - covering the city centre and Kelham Island - with just a 12.9 per cent turnout.

Whilst turnout in the ward is always low, this year it was exceptionally so, leading to Green Councillor Martin Phipps taking the seat from Labour by a majority of just 16 votes.

“We were never expecting City Ward to be high in terms of turnout,” Professor Pattie said. “It’s a low turnout ward anyway, which goes back to the same notion of class and affluence.

“But low turnout wards can help if you are a smaller party. If your voters are really keen and want to get out there, while other voters are staying at home.

“The city’s transient population does have an effect. Students may not be registered to vote in Sheffield, and you may also get students deciding not to vote because they don’t see themselves as part of the city long-term.

Low turnout in the election for Sheffield City Region Mayor from residents in Doncaster and Rotherham had less to do with residents’ opposition to the the Sheffield City Region and more because there were no local elections in those towns, Professor Pattie said.

In Sheffield and Barnsley - which both had local elections on the same day as the mayoral vote - turnout was 24.99 per cent and 31.56 per cent respectively.

Meanwhile in Doncaster and Rotherham, where there were no local elections, turnout was 20.05 per cent and 21.26 per cent.

“Where I voted in Sheffield I got two ballot papers, but in Doncaster where there was no local election and you are asked to turn out to vote for this regional mayor when you don’t know what the role is going to be then that will impact on turnout,” he said.

“If Dan Jarvis hadn’t won for Labour in South Yorkshire then something would have been seriously out of kilter.

“In terms of the Sheffield City Region and One Yorkshire question, I don’t think most voters either know or care. I don’t think people in Doncaster are sitting in the pubs discussing whether we should be part of Sheffield City Region or One Yorkshire.”