Some insights into political (dis)-engagement

Parliament house flag post

Some insights into political (dis)-engagement

Posted 22/08/2013 by Brenton Holmes

As Australian voters wrestle with their choice of parties and candidates in the 2013 Federal election campaign, the UK’s Hansard Society has released its annual audit of political engagement in Britain. Unlike Australia, voting in Britain is not compulsory.
Turnout at recent UK general elections was:
  • at the 1 May 1997 general election: 71.4% 
  • at the 7 June 2001 general election: 59.54%
  • at the 5 May 2005 general election: 61.4%
  • at the 6 May 2010 general election: 65.1%
The date of the next general election in the UK is set at 7 May 2015 after the Fixed Term Parliament Act was passed on 15 September 2011.
The 2013 UK Hansard Society Audit shows that the British public are so disillusioned about, disenchanted by, and disengaged from politics that:
  • just 41% of the public say they are certain to vote in the event of a general election, compared to 48% last year and 58% two years ago
  • the public’s propensity to vote is now the lowest ever recorded in the Audit series
  • only 12% of 18–24 year olds say they are absolutely certain to vote— compared to 22% last year and 30% two years ago
  • 20% of the public say they are ‘absolutely certain not to vote’— compared to 16% last year and double the number who said the same two years ago (10%)
  • only 42% of the public say they would vote in an election in the future ‘if they felt strongly enough about an issue’;
  • that 58% of people are still not prepared to vote even if they feel strongly, suggests serious disillusionment with the efficacy of voting.
However, there has been a recovery in the UK in the number of people who would like to be involved in ‘decision-making’:
  • 47% of the public say they would like to be involved in local decision-making (up 9 percentage points from 2012)
  • 42% say they would like to be involved in national decision-making (also up 9 percentage points compared to 2012)
But knowledge of and satisfaction with MPs are at their lowest levels in the Audit series:
  • only 22% of the public can correctly name their own MP— compared to 38% two years ago (the last time this question was asked)
  • 23% are satisfied with the way that MPs generally are doing their job —compared to 29% in 2010
  • 34% are satisfied with the way their own MP is doing his/her job— compared to 38% in 2010.
Responses to a series of political quiz questions in the Audit showed that:
  • 57% of the public are unable to correctly identify that British members of the European Parliament are directly elected by British voters.
  • a third of the public (33%) could not correctly identify that members of the House of Lords are not elected.
The British results warrant comparison with the state of electoral engagement in Australia. 
 A recent ANU survey showed that a majority of Australia's voters support compulsory voting, and there has been relatively little change in that view since the 1950s. If compulsory voting were to be replaced by voluntary voting there would probably be a 10 per cent decline in election turnout to 85 per cent The ANU survey also assessed people’s attitudes to the efficacy of democracy: 
Citizens’ satisfaction with democracy in Australia has consistently been one of the highest in the world, after a short decline following the 1975 dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government. More recently, there was a decline of 13 percentage points in satisfaction between the 2007 and 2010 elections, caused by a sense of dissatisfaction with the operation of minority government. This lower level of satisfaction persisted in 2011. In the current survey, the level of satisfaction is consistent with the 2010 and 2011 estimates, with just under three in 10 of the respondents reporting that they were ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ satisfied with democracy in Australia.
There is a broad consensus across research in Australia, UK and the US that the clichéd image of bored, disengaged youth is false. Rather than ‘disengaged’ they appear to be ‘differently engaged’. A Democratic Audit report noted:
A pattern that emerges here is the disassociation of young people from formal political interest and participation. This is not the same as, and should not be confused with, disassociation or political apathy more generally. We have also found that many young Australians are active and engaged politically. Nevertheless their lack of faith and trust in the ballot box is an issue of concern.
There are conflicting views about the efficacy of political engagement via social media and online notwithstanding that it is a rapidly growing part of the political communication landscape. The Australian politics and media researcher Damien Spry contends that online political engagement as a way of exchanging ideas and debating political issues is probably more cacophonous and confusing than enlightening. And in 2011, UWA communications academic Taeul Harper wrote:
The increasing spread of information and communication technology has changed just about every aspect of Australian society – except democracy. The opportunities to engage citizens in the democratic process are yet to be harnessed by the Australian political system.














 


Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.

Add your comment

[Click to expand]




Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print

FlagPost

Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament


Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice

Archive

Syndication

Tagcloud

asylum refugees immigration climate change Parliament elections Australian foreign policy social security health financing women Australian Defence Force taxation welfare policy welfare reform sport Medicare employment illicit drugs gambling Australian Bureau of Statistics higher education disability statistics private health insurance Middle East Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency health reform emissions trading industrial relations united states Carbon Pricing Mechanism United Nations school education steroids WADA federal budget 43rd Parliament politics labour force Australian Federal Police transport indigenous Australians aid detention criminal law child protection ASADA Afghanistan governance international relations poker machines law enforcement people trafficking Fair Work Act Australian Public Service pharmaceutical benefits scheme International Women's Day Australian Crime Commission parliamentary procedure National Disability Insurance Scheme children's health food OECD debt defence capability federal election 2013 Australian Electoral Commission aged care Asia Australia in the Asian Century environment Senate income management pensions planning skilled migration Papua New Guinea multiculturalism people smuggling social media doping HECS Higher Education Loan Program paid parental leave health High Court corruption federal state relations dental health New Zealand terrorist groups ALP election results constitution UK Parliament public service reform forced labour aviation coal seam gas crime customs ADRV Census Newstart Parenting Payment employee employer Federal Court foreign debt gross debt net debt European Union domestic violence firearms Constitutional reform food labelling Australian economy carbon tax banking political parties public policy terrorism welfare Australian Security Intelligence Organisation intelligence community Drugs research and development voting mental health health system human rights Northern Territory Emergency Response science Electoral reform regional unemployment violence against women accountability China military history Indigenous Indonesia Pacific Islands speaker health risks superannuation middle class welfare welfare systems question time animal health Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry trade unions integrity same sex relationships foreign bribery Australian Secret Intelligence Service export liquefied natural gas local government referendum children mining forestry Tasmania financial sector Canada United Nations Security Council climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leadership expertise Senators and Members family assistance by-election US economy housing affordability ASIO carbon markets new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC reserved seats regulation Parliamentary remuneration Population Hung Parliament federal budget 2011-12 paternalism public health slavery Trafficking in Persons Report homelessness school chaplains ministries water federal election 2010 Medicare Locals primary care regional students Youth Allowance entitlements salary sea farers productivity Special Rapporteur transparency money laundering early childhood education national security sexual abuse bulk billing disability employment World Trade Organization Australia renewable energy US politics terrorist financing language education royal commission Italy roads international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies standard of proof arts World Health Organisation disciplinary tribunals railways infant mortality honorary citizen suspension of standing and sessional orders live exports contracts workplace policies peace keeping disorderly conduct same-sex marriage Parliament House retirement Rent Assistance constitutional recognition of local government anti-dumping national heritage NHMRC nutrition GDP world heritage submarines Somalia United Kingdom defence budget First speech election timetable sitting days prime ministers standing orders public housing cancer gene patents genetic testing universities Ireland public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission vocational education and training limitation period Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping leave loading political engagement Korean peninsula counselling pests suicide social policy alcohol computer games plebiscites therapeutic goods Therapeutic Goods Administration federalism federation preselection Iran sanctions baby bonus early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin citizen engagement policymaking biosecurity hendra environmental law COAG Ministerial Councils nuclear Work Choices republic hospitals qantas ANZUS Norway President Barack Obama Presidential visits advertising electricity energy maritime floods ADHD stimulant medication ABS Trade Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings 44th Parliament 2015 e-voting internet voting nsw state elections Indigenous health procurement child care funding refugees immigration asylum ACT Assembly Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors social services EU fishing asylum refugees immigration political finance donations Antarctica Diplomacy Disability Support Pension by-elections state and territories China soft power education Fiji India fuel Scottish referendum Members of Parliament Middle East; national security; terrorism Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy innovation Bills NATO workers anti-corruption fraud bribery corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform standards copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry Governor-General Animal law; food health policy employment law bullying asylum seekers Economics efficiency foreign aid human rights; Racial Discrimination Act smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Work Health and Safety Asia; Japan; international relations youth Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine political financing Australia Greens Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling Stronger futures rural and regional political parties preselection presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act Australian Greens obesity competition policy US presidential election evidence law sacrament of confession international days codes of conduct consumer laws

Show all
Show less
Back to top