Audit shows that public is frustrated in desire to have a say

From: Hansard Society
Published: Mon Feb 28 2005

A new report published today shows that whilst most people have a strong aspiration to have a say in how the country is run, many doubt that political participation is the best way to do so. According to The Electoral Commission and Hansard Society’s second annual Audit of political engagement, two-thirds of the public (67%) want to have a say in how the country is run, but only 27% at the moment feel that they do have a say.

· At the same time, MORI’s survey for the Audit finds the number who see the value of involvement in politics has not moved from its low level in last year’s survey: fewer than two in five say they believe that "When people like me get involved in politics, they can really change the way that the country is run".
· This frustration is reflected in the survey’s findings that less than half (45%) the public feel they know a fair amount or better about politics and barely a majority (53%) find it of interest.
· Just over half (52%) said they would be ‘absolutely certain’ to vote at an immediate general election and political activism remains a minority pursuit.
· However, contrary to claims of political ‘apathy’, over three quarters (77%) of those polled said they are interested in national issues and even more (81%) interested in local issues.

Encouragingly, although the Audit found little change in public attitudes towards politics year-on-year, it discovered that there have been occasions in the last twelve months when the political pulse of the nation has quickened - principally at the June 2004 elections when propensity to vote and interest in politics increased sharply. This shows that political engagement is changing and, crucially, is changeable - suggesting that it is possible to stimulate political engagement if an election campaign captures the public’s imagination.

Responding to the findings, Sam Younger, Chairman of The Electoral Commission, said: "Many of those who say they’re not interested in politics do so because of how they interpret the concept, but when asked about issues that affect them, their families or the world around them, people have strong opinions and a keen interest. Whilst there is no silver bullet solution, those working to quicken the nation’s political heartbeat in what might be an election year need to make convincing connections between voting and the issues of most concern to voters."

Lord Holme, Chairman of the Hansard Society, commented: "If turnout at the next general election is to be higher than the bare majority who currently say they are absolutely certain to vote, then political parties and all others working to increase political participation in Britain will need to convince the public that politics matters and that voting is the best means of fulfilling their undoubted aspiration to have say in how the country is run."

A full audit will be published every third year with update audits, such as this one, in between. A full copy of the audit can be downloaded from and


For further information or to arrange interviews please contact:
Tabitha Cunniffe at The Electoral Commission on 020 7271 0529 or 07789 920414
Virginia Gibbons at the Hansard Society on 020 7395 4010 or 07812 765 552

Notes to editors:
1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body established by UK Parliament. It aims to ensure public confidence and participation in the democratic process within the United Kingdom through modernisation of the electoral process, promotion of public awareness of electoral matters, and regulation of political parties.
2. The Hansard Society is an independent, non-partisan educational charity which exists to promote effective parliamentary democracy.
3. Audit of political engagement 2 was undertaken by The Electoral Commission and the Hansard Society. Like the first, it is based on a Political Engagement Poll undertaken by MORI in December 2004 and involving face-to-face interviews with a representative sample of 2,065 adults aged 18+ across the UK. Some of the questions were asked of about half the sample.

Company: Hansard Society
Contact Name: Virginia Gibbons
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 020 7395 4010

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