Publications / Reports

Connecting Citizens to Parliament: How Parliament Can Engage More Effectively with Hard-to-Reach Groups

1 Jan 2011

This major 2011 research report investigated the continuing barriers to engagement with Parliament particularly among hard-to-reach groups, Parliament's recent engagement initiatives notwithstanding. It presented wide-ranging strategic and practical proposals for further steps to improve the inclusivity and effectiveness of Parliament's public engagement.

Parliament has done a great deal to improve its reach and accessibility through web, public education and outreach activities. However, those who are engaged with Parliament remain a small group, not representative of society as a whole, and likely to be older, more highly educated, in a higher socio-economic group, and male. There remains a large group of citizens who Parliament does not talk to, and who are not aware of how Parliament works and how it relates to their daily lives.

This major report presented the result of research which set out to identify which groups remain disengaged from or poorly served by Parliament, and why; key processes and practical points of engagement within and beyond Parliament where greater involvement of these groups could occur; and the current barriers to participation by these groups and the strategic measures necessary to help overcome them.

The research included the use of qualitative semi-structured focus groups held in five locations, and a quantitative survey based on a random sample of 2,005 adults, in both cases across Great Britain. The results of this research are presented in Part 1 of the report.

The rest of the report developed a framework for parliamentary engagement together with supporting practical recommendations that could be used to take further existing parliamentary initiatives, in order to enhance public inclusion by increasing the opportunities available to disengaged and - in particular - 'hard-to-reach' groups, such that they become more aware of and involved in the life and activities of Parliament.

The report showed that engaging more effectively with hard-to-reach groups will not be achieved through a single 'big bang' change, or in the short term, or by Parliament alone. Rather, the process requires a number of smaller, cumulative, changes over a longer timeframe, and often relying on the work of other bodies and groups.

The recommendations focused on a combination of formal and informal education, combined with not only traditional but also new, primarily localised, forms of participation - such as e-petitions, local meetings and citizen juries. The report drew particular attention to the role of social networks as important factors for awareness building and knowledge transfer. The report also identified it as vital for Parliament to provide information in a variety of different formats, for different audiences, through different 'touch points' with which people come into contact in their day-to-day lives. With this in mind, the report provided examples of placing relevant, easy-to-understand information about Parliament in popular newspapers and magazines; the use of accessible, engaging online videos; and the potential for daytime television and soap operas to be used to convey information and build awareness about Parliament.

  • Executive Summary

      1. Introduction

  • Part 1 - Analysis and Discussion

      1. Survey

      1. Focus Groups

  • Part 2 - Findings

      1. Framework for Engagement

      1. Recommendations

  • Part 3 - Background

      1. Parliament and Public Engagement

      1. Touch Points

      1. Conclusion

  • Appendices

  • Tables

  • Figures