Our research addresses some of the most critical challenges facing our democracy today: declining public engagement and participation in politics; inequalities in representation; the role and conduct of our elected representatives; the causes and consequences of deficiencies in the legislative process; and the extent to which Parliament can effectively scrutinise and hold the executive to account.
Our areas of work are presented below, and a list of some of our current projects is further down the page. The latest news from the research team can be found on our Despatch box blog.
We track what the public thinks about politics, Parliament and politicians locally and nationally. Our Audit of Political Engagement is the only annual health check on our democracy.
Laws made by Parliament shape every area of national life. Improving the way bills, policies and public spending decisions are prepared and scrutinised is an important focus of our work.
A strong Parliament is vital for our democracy. We explore how it can better hold the executive to account, engage with the public more effectively, and strengthen the role and function of MPs.
Representative democracy is changing: coalition politics, the decline of political parties and the challenges posed by new technology all raise questions about the future of our political system.
The parlous state of women’s representation is unacceptable in a modern democracy. Our work with the Counting Women In coalition tracks the under-representation of women in politics and public life and explores options for reform.
A place of such historical, political, religious and architectural significance should be one of the world’s greatest civic spaces. Our proposals would make our democratic heritage more accessible to the public.
Showcasing the best international research, our influential journal is a must read for anyone interested in contemporary politics and in search of new ideas and evidence about the critical questions facing representative democracy.
For the latest news, analysis and reflections on the challenges facing Parliament, politicians and parties, read contributions from the Society’s research team, trustees, fellows and guest experts.
Audit of Political Engagement
The Audit of Political Engagement is the only annual health check on our democratic system. Now in its tenth 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.
Through this annual study we track levels of public interest, knowledge, participation and satisfaction with the political process, examining the reasons behind patterns of change and continuity and encouraging debate on the critical issues relating to democratic engagement.
In terms of volume the majority of the UK’s general public law is made not through Acts of Parliament but through delegated legislation. Its impact is felt in almost every aspect of the public and private spheres yet much of it operates under the radar of parliamentary, media and public scrutiny.
This study seeks to ‘lift the lid’ on the delegated legislation system, exploring how and why decisions have been made by successive governments about the use of delegated legislation to enact their policy objectives and whether the current architecture of parliamentary scrutiny is fit for purpose. Our research examines key aspects of the process, particularly focusing on whether excessive use is being made of executive discretion and power and if so how it might be restrained, and how the consultation, drafting and scrutiny processes could be improved.
A Year in the Life: the experiences of newly elected MPs, MSPs, AMs & TDs
What is it like to make that rapid transition from being a member of the public to being
an elected Member of a legislature? How do they learn the ropes in a new and challenging
political environment? How do they decide what they are going to do and how they are
going to do it – defining for themselves a job without a job description? And do they have the resources to carry out their role effectively? How do they balance the expectations and demands of their constituents, their party, the media and others? What are they hoping to achieve, and how does the reality of the experience match up to their expectations?
This comparative study of newly elected legislators in four different institutions seeks to answer these and many other questions about the work of our elected representatives.
- Ballot box, by Demosh, CC BY 2.0 license.
- Despatch box by UK Parliament. Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament, under the following terms.
- Legislation archives, by UK Parliament. Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament, under the following terms.
- Magna Carta, by US National Archives, in the public domain.
- Magnifying glass, by Jazza, under the RGBstock license.
- MPs in the House of Commons, by Catherine Bebbington, UK Parliament. Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of Parliament, under the following terms.