Gender and Age in Voter Turnout

By Julian Dierkes

Via a freedom of information request submitted my Mongol TV’s E Lkhagva, I have obtained information on the gender and age breakdown of voters in last year’s presidential election.

As frequently described in election observation, Mongolian election procedures inside the polling stations are quite advanced in the information they offer to voters, including continuous TV coverage of inside-the-polling-station images displayed outside of the station, but also including a breakdown of voters by time they voted, by gender, and by age brackets. Given that the General Election Commission clearly has this information, it has been unfortunate that this is not made public immediately with other information about elections.

There are some challenges with the data in that it is not reported relative to the demographic breakdown in the population of eligible voters, nevertheless there are some observations to make.


This past summer, I once again observed the extent to which Mongolian elections are run by women. This pertained not only to staffing in polling stations, but also to the sense that the polling stations I visited as an observer all showed more than half of the voters being women. Since that was such a consistent pattern, it’s terrific to have aimag-by-aimag data on shares among valid voters at least.

In the June 26 first round of the presidential election, there was thus only a single aimag where fewer than half the valid votes were cast by women, that is Bayan-Olgii where women constituted 49.5% of voters. To be clear, this does not mean that 49.5% of women voted, but that 49.5% of the valid votes were cast by women. In the Mongolian census, gender ratios are close to 50% at birth, but women outnumber men in older age cohorts given the shorter life expectancy of men. A share of the vote under 49.5% of women thus suggests that women are noticeably less likely to vote than men, but later posts will perhaps look at voter registration data or aimag-by-aimag demographics to get a better sense of how unusual women’s share among voters is.

While Bayan-Olgii was the only aimag with a female share of the vote under 50%, the national average is 54.1% with the Ulaanbaatar districts reporting a female share of 55.4% and aimags reporting on average 53%.

Among the aimags, only Darkhan-Uul (55.9%) and Orkhon (54.5%) report averages that are close to Ulaanbatar. This suggests a clear rural-urban difference, begging for further information on shares in the population of eligible voters.

The very highest share of women voters was reported in Ulaanbaatar’s Bayangol district with 57%.

This observations also hold for the 2016 parliamentary election where Bayan-Olgii reported the lowest female voter share (51%) and Bayangol the highest (57.3%). The average was 53.8% nationwide with Ulaanbaatar reporting 55.7% and the aimags 52.5%.

For the second round of the presidential election, these observations all hold as well. Bayan-Olgii (49.6%), Bayangol (56.9%), Ulaanbaatar (55.5%), aimags (53.5%).

It thus appears at a very superficial level, that women are voting in greater numbers than men, though it remains unclear how big this difference is. In absolute terms, women are clearly casting more ballots however.

Differences in absolute numbers of ballots cast are:

  • 2016 parliamentary 768,681 women vs. 659,712 men (a difference of 108,969 votes)
  • 2017 1st round presidential 732,320 women vs. 620,951 men (111,369)
  • 2017 2nd round presidential 656,547 women vs. 549,789 men (106,758)

As it would be surprising to see such consistency in gender voting patterns, a conclusion will have to wait until I can compare these figures to aimag population statistics or, even better, to voter registration.

Age Cohorts

The General Election Commission groups age cohorts into four brackets: 18-25, 26-40, 41-55, 56 and more years old. Obviously, these are not even brackets, so we are not expecting even 25% shares even if voters of ages voted at constant shares of the population.

For the age cohorts it may be even more important to compare the reported numbers to district/aimag demographics and/or voter registration to get a sense of patterns, but here, absolute numbers also tell a story.

Reversing the order of the above discussion, let’s look at these overall absolute numbers first:

  • 2016 parliamentary 18-25 244,592, 26-40 535,659, 41-55 412,359, 56- 235,783
  • 2017 presidential 1st round 18-25 211,537, 26-40 508,542 41-55 395,736 56- 237,456
  • 2017 presidential 2nd round 18-25 189,092, 26-40 451,040, 41-55 352,336, 56- 213,851

In the first round of the presidential election  these absolute numbers work out to the following percentage shares: 18-25 15.6%, 26-40 37.6%, 41-55 29.2%, 56- 17.5%.

As with gender, the numbers are more meaningful as absolute numbers then with percentage shares until compared to voter registration data. The absolute numbers mean that the 26-40 age cohort wants in great numbers.

There is also some regional variance with younger voters generally a smaller share of the overall number in Ulaanbaatar compared to the countryside. The highest percentage for the 18-25 group is again in Bayan-Olgii (21.2% in first round presidential), but that could well be a function of the overall demographic composition of the aimag population not of a higher level of voter turnout.

Preliminary Conclusions

There is a good chance that there is something interesting going on with voter participation, particularly voting by women, though the absolute numbers and percentage of valid votes only indicates that and does not actually point to anything in particular. Another round of data that would include voter registration demographics (at best) or at least aimag demographics would move analysis further.

The age breakdown of voter turnout also seems potentially interesting, as does a rural vs urban comparison and perhaps a closer look at Bayan-Olgii.

About Julian Dierkes

Julian Dierkes is a sociologist by training (PhD Princeton Univ) and a Mongolist by choice and passion since around 2005. He teaches in the Master of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He toots and tweets @jdierkes
This entry was posted in Demography, Elections, Ikh Khural 2016, Presidential 2017 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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