Key findings

Audit of Political Engagement 14: the 2017 report

A ‘referendum effect’ fails to materialise

Graphic of EU flag on wall missing a star

There has been no positive ‘referendum effect’ on public attitudes after the June 2016 EU vote, of the kind witnessed after the Scottish independence referendum in 2014. On many of the key indicators of political engagement, public attitudes have either remained stable or have fallen back to pre-general election levels, after the post-election boost we observed in last year’s results.

Changes in political behaviour?

Graphic of an e-petition

Although the public’s attitudes are proving hard to shift, there are some positive signs of change in political behaviour. After the high turnout in the EU referendum, people’s certainty to vote remains at a high watermark.

As last year, 59% say they are ‘absolutely certain to vote’ – the highest level recorded in the 14-year life of this Audit study – and a further 16% say they are ‘likely to vote’. However, the post-2015 election increase in the number of people claiming to be a strong supporter of a political party has not been sustained, dropping by 10 points to 31%. This is on a par with what we have seen in previous Audits, suggesting that last year’s peak was linked to the post-general election boom in engagement.

Perceptions of Parliament

Parliament graphic

The public clearly value Parliament, with a substantial majority (73%) believing it is essential to democracy. However, overall satisfaction with the way Parliament works (30%) is now six points lower than when the first Audit was published in 2004. Claimed knowledge of Parliament has declined by seven points from last year to 45%, but remains higher than at the same stage of the political cycle after the 2005 and 2010 elections. It is also 12 points higher than when the Audit started in 2004 (although the question wording was slightly different so the results are not directly comparable).

The EU referendum

Graphic of a ballot box

Support for more referendums has declined by 15 points. But a clear majority of British people (61%) still think referendums should be used more often for determining important questions.

By nation and region across Britain, support for more referendums is now lowest in Scotland: 55% of Scots support more referendums for deciding important questions, a drop of 19 points. 74% of those who say they voted ‘leave’ support more use of referendums for determining important questions compared to just 47% of ‘remainers’.

What do we measure?

Indicators of engagement graphic

The Audit of Political Engagement is a time-series study providing an annual benchmark to measure political engagement in Great Britain, gauging public opinion about politics and the political system, and more broadly the general health of our democracy.

Each Audit report presents the findings from a public opinion survey, providing detailed commentary on a range of measures that have been chosen as key measures of political engagement. Repeating questions in successive years enables us to chronicle the public’s responses year on year and track the direction and magnitude of change since the Audit was first published in 2004, building trend data on public attitudes to key aspects of our democracy.

14 years of Audit findings and data

Audit 14 (2017)

Audit 13 (2016)

Audit 12 (2015)

Audit 11 (2014)

Audit 10 (2013)

Audit 8 (2011)

Audit 7 (2010)

Audit 6 (2009)

Audit 5 (2008)

Audit 4 (2007)

Audit 3 (2006)

Audit 2 (2005)

Audit 1 (2004)