What if not voting was a vote for Nobody?

Richard Speigal


by Richard Speigal

The /r/dataisbeautiful subreddit recently featured a great visualisation by Philip Kearney on voter apathy in the United States.

United States of Apathy
If abstention was a vote for "Nobody", by Philip Kearney

It's pretty stark and got me to wondering how this might look in the UK?

(Scroll down if you just want to know how UK voter apathy looks.)

This turned out to be one of the fastest and fun maps I've done in a while using an online tool called Flourish Studio, which makes electoral maps crazy easy. Best of all, it's free.

Flourish obfuscates the heavy lifting involved in turning data into maps, and you won't have to turn to a code window or specialist tools to create this.

First up, you need the data. The 2017 general election results are freely available from the Electoral Commission, and it took around 30 minutes of plain old Excel to figure out what voter apathy looks like in the UK.

Grab a copy of my modified Excel spreadsheet here.

2017 general election results

The calculations predict what might happen if every eligible voter that didn't vote, had in fact voted for the fictional NOBODY PARTY. Under "first past the post" rules, I assigned Nobody as the winning party if abstentions were higher than votes for the actual winner.

Now copy the data, paste it into Flourish's pre-made UK constituency map and you're pretty much done.

The final visualisation looks like this:

How did The Nobody Party do?

Comparing the two visualisations, it's clear that voter apathy in the UK is nowhere near as stark as America, but the numbers throw up a lot of interesting takeaways.

If "The Nobody Party" launched tomorrow:

  • Nobody would be the third largest party in the UK with 146 seats
  • We'd have a hung parliament: Somebody would have to form a coalition with Nobody
  • The Tories would be bruised by Nobody (-31 seats)
  • Labour would suffer even worse at the hands of Nobody (-78 seats)
  • The SNP would be all but wiped out by Nobody (-32 seats)
  • The Green Party have nothing to fear from Nobody

(Please note I do not endorse a vote for Nobody.)

What if not voting was a vote for Nobody?

Go play with Flourish, it's a great tool with a swift workflow and low technical barrier for data storytelling.


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