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Unequal conditions for participation in elections for the oldest-old in Germany?

A population-based cross-sectional study of the determinants of voting behaviour among the oldest-old in Germany.

Brief wird in eine Wahlurne eingeworfen.

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Judith Wenner and Michael Wagner conducted a study of 1826 respondents aged 80 or older from North Rhine-Westphalia to examine the determinants of voting behaviour in federal elections, focusing on the role of health status among the oldest-old. In their article, "Voting Behavior and Health Among the Oldest-old in Germany: Results from a Population-Based Cross-Sectional Study," they concluded that a large proportion, 84.6%, of those over 80 years exercise their right to vote. This revealed considerable inequalities that can lead to a lack of representation of certain population groups.

The results highlight the importance of health status in explaining voter turnout among the very old. For example, persons with severe cognitive impairments have the lowest voter turnout among the very old – just 55.9%.

The importance of social embedding for voter turnout was also partially confirmed. It was shown, for example, that voter turnout is higher when the oldest-old live in a partnership.

Moreover, it was found that those who consider it their habitual duty to participate in the election are more likely to realise this in old age. This explains, at least in part, why voter turnout among the very old was still high, despite existing health impairments.

Ultimately, it remains to be noted that social inequalities in voter participation persist into old age. Socio-economic resources were measured in the case of the study by the level of education. Thus, a high level of education was associated with high voter turnout.

Health status is important in explaining turnout among the oldest-old, but it does not override other relevant determinants such as socioeconomic resources.

The results of the study's analysis make an important contribution to research on the electoral participation of the very old in Germany and beyond. Judith Wenner and Michael Wagner note that older population groups make up a growing share of the total electorate and are usually directly affected by political decisions. Even at an advanced age, all those who wish to participate in an election should be given the opportunity and necessary support to do so. This is the only way to ensure comprehensive political representation, even of the oldest-old.