Parliament at night

Audit of Political Engagement 10

Audit of Political Engagement 10 coverThe Audit of Political Engagement is the only annual health check on our democratic system. Now in its 10th year, each Audit measures the ‘political pulse’ of the nation, providing a unique benchmark to gauge public opinion across Great Britain with regard to the political system.

This year’s report explores a worrying decline in the public’s propensity to vote. Just 41% of the public now say that in the event of an immediate general election they would be certain to vote – a decline of seven percentage points in a year and the lowest level in the debate of the Audit. Twenty percent of people say they are certain not to vote. For young people, the picture is even worse; just 12% are certain to vote, down from 30% two years ago.

Combined with the low turnout levels at recent local elections and the disastrous turnout at the polls for Police and Crime Commissioners in November 2012, these findings are deeply worrying for the health of our democracy.


Also of significant concern are the low levels of understanding of our how our political system works. A series of true/false questions show that:

  • 29% of people do not know that 16 is not the minimum age for vote;
  • Only two-thirds of the public (67%) know that Members of the House of Lords are not elected;
  • Just 43% know that British Members of the European Parliament are elected by British voters.

Given the active debates in 2012 about lowering the voting age, particularly for the referendum on Scottish independence, the now-abandoned plans to reform the House of Lords, and ongoing arguments about membership of the Europe Union, these findings are a sobering reflection on how little the public are cognisant of the workings of the British political system.

Audit 10 also tracks the public’s attitudes to MPs and Parliament where there are mixed results. Public attitudes towards MPs continue to decline with satisfaction with MPs is at its lowest level in the ten year Audit series:

  • Only 23% are satisfied with the way that MPs generally are doing their job – compared to 29% three years ago. 34% are satisfied with the way their own MP is doing his/her job – compared to 38% three years ago;
  • However, this has not been accompanied by an increase in dissatisfaction with MPs; more people than ever are simply ambivalent – they express no opinion one way or the other;
  • Just 22% of the public can correctly name their own MP – compared to 38% two years ago.

Satisfaction with how Parliament works remains unchanged at 27% but the public do seem to think it is more effective in some key respects:

  • 47% agree that Parliament ‘holds government to account’ – up from 38% last year;
  • 55% agree that Parliament ‘debates and makes decisions about issues that matter to me’ – up from 49% last year.

Download Audit of Political Engagement 10: The 2013 report.

Notes:

  • The information in the Audit of Political Engagement 10 is based on a Political Engagement Poll undertaken by TNS-BMRB on behalf of the Hansard Society. The findings are based on a total of 1,128 interviews conducted between 14 and 18 December 2012, which have then been weighted to the national population profile of Great Britain.
  • The Audit of Political Engagement is published by the Hansard Society with funding from the House of Commons and the Cabinet Office.
  • Survey data downloads and more information about the Audit series.
  • Launch event information, audio recordings and presentation.
  • The charts from the Audit publication are available for non-commercial use by academics in presentations to students. Please note that permission should be sought from the Hansard Society for any other re-use of Audit content.

 

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