The Upper House election last Sunday was marred by a sluggish voter turnout of 48.8 percent — the second-lowest turnout for an Upper House election on record, only trailing 1995's 44.52 percent. Even though the choice of government was not at stake, it is deplorable that only less than half of eligible voters cast their ballots in a nationwide Diet election, which means that the results reflect only half the nation's popular will. What's behind the falling voter turnout needs be identified and steps taken to address the problem.
Voter turnout stood at 65 percent in the Upper House election in 1989 but plunged to 50.72 percent in the next triennial race held in 1992, and then plummeted to a low of 44.52 percent in 1995. The turnout remained in the 50 percent range in the subsequent seven elections. The figure was 54.7 percent in the 2016 race, which was the first Diet election after the voting age was lowered to 18.
Noticeable in recent elections is the sluggish turnout among young voters. According to a sample survey, only 31.33 percent of eligible voters age 18 and 19 went to the polling stations in Sunday's election — 17 points lower than the all-generation average and a decline of 15 points from 2016.