In addition to measuring participation through civic engagement, SWMENA survey respondents were asked a series of questions about their participation in the September 2006 local council and presidential elections, since these were the most recent elections that took place in Yemen . Respondents were also asked about their opinions about policy priorities for elected officials and the main factors driving their voting choices.
- Survey results indicate that while a solid 61% majority of Yemeni women said they had voted in the local council and presidential elections in September 2006, women’s voter participation is noticeably lower than men’s. Among men, a sweeping 86% majority report voting in these elections. There is indeed a gender gap in voter participation in Yemen, however, the difference is not as dramatic as the one seen in terms of civic engagement. Furthermore, the high levels of voter turnout could be attributed to the fact that the 2006 elections were for both local councils and presidential elections, meaning that the mobilization of voters was at a high capacity.
- When looking at women’s voter turnout by residential density, we do not find differences in voter turnout between urban areas and rural areas (60%), however, voter turnout is slightly higher in small towns/large villages (67%). This might be due to the ease of mobilizing women to go vote in small towns due to the small area size, high population levels, and better road infrastructure compared to villages which tend to have harder roads and more scattered residential units.
- When looking at voter turnout by educational attainment, we find that women with a secondary education or higher have higher voter turnout compared with women in other educational categories: a full 82% of women with a university education or higher have voted in the September 2006 elections and 67% of women with a secondary education reported voting as well. Less than a majority of women who have completed an intermediate education (48%) have voted in these elections whereas more women with a primary education or lower (60%) have voted in these elections.
- In terms of age groups, women 35-44 have the highest voter turnout with 68% saying they voted in the September 2006 elections. Women 45-54 also had a relatively high turnout (65%) while younger women 21-24 have the lowest voter turnout at 51%.
- Interestingly, when looking at voter turnout by household income levels, we notice that women belonging to the lowest income level (household income of 20,000 Yemeni Riyals or less) and women belonging to the highest income level (household income of 100,000 Yemeni Riyals or more) tend to vote in higher rates than women in other income categories; 66% of women in the lowest income group and 67% of women in the highest income group reported voting in the 2006 elections, compared with a 61% voter turnout level for women as a whole (Figure 13).
- In general, while women’s voter turnout may be slightly different for certain demographic groups, it must be noted that voter turnout is relatively high for women across all ages, educational groups and geographic locations. This is likely the result of systematic political mobilization activities on behalf of political parties that target all groups of eligible voters.
- Respondents who reported not casting a vote in the September 2006 elections were asked to provide the main reason why they didn’t vote. The most frequently cited reason by both women (18%) and men (23%) is not being registered to vote. Several women (13%) mention not being interested in elections or politics as their main reason for not voting: this comes in second place for women and in sixth place for men. The third most frequently cited reason by women is being sick; this comes in fourth place for men (7%). It is noteworthy that one main reason for not voting for women is not being allowed to vote: this is mentioned by 11% of women and comes in fourth place.
- Not surprisingly, no men mention this as their reason for not taking part in the elections. This suggests that many women in Yemen are still not free to practice their right to vote as they are usually forbidden from voting by their husbands or male relatives. For men, the second most cited reason for not voting is being out of town or country when the elections took place (23%); this is only mentioned by 3% of women since women’s activities tend to be mostly home-bound. The third most cited reason by men for not voting is not being eligible to vote (8%) (Figure 14).