Audit of Political Engagement

Audit 8 explores public attitudes to civic and political engagement and participation in the context of the government's `Big Society'. It also looks at public attitudes to the new political and constitutional landscape in particular the impact on perceptions of Parliament and attitudes to the voting system in advance of the 2011 referendum

Audit of Political Engagement

The Audit of Political Engagement is an annual study measuring the nature and extent of political engagement and how it is changing over time among adults in the Great Britain, undertaken by the Hansard Society and conducted by Ipsos MORI.

Following the enormous political changes witnessed in 2010, Audit 8 focuses on two key areas of interest. It explores public attitudes to civic and political engagement and participation in the context of the government’s ‘Big Society’. Secondly, it looks at public attitudes to the new political and constitutional landscape that followed the inconclusive general election result and particularly the impact on perceptions of Parliament and attitudes to the voting system in advance of the 2011 referendum.

Some key findings:

The political landscape

  • More than half the public (53%) claim to know ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ about politics continuing a long term rise since 2005;
  • Three in five people (58%) say they are interested in politics - this is highest recorded in the Audit series;
  • While interest in politics and Parliament have increased, this has not been matched by an increase in participation in politics or satisfaction with the system of government;
  • Almost two thirds (64%) believe the system of governing Britain could be improved either ‘quite a lot’ or ‘a great deal’ and fewer people are now satisfied with it (27%) than measured in any of the previous three Audits when this question was asked;
  • Around two in five people continue to believe that the UK Parliament ‘holds government to account’ (40% in 2009 and 38% in 2010), but fewer people now agree that Parliament ‘is working for you and me’ (38% in 2009 and 30% in 2010);
  • Fewer than two in five people (38%) can correctly name their local MP which is down from 44% in previous years - this is likely to be in large part because of the high turnover of MPs at the General Election.

Big Society & Getting Involved

  • Almost seven in ten people (69%) are interested in how things work in their local area, a higher level of interest than for politics more generally’;
  • There is no difference in how many people would like to be involved in decision making at either their local level (43% would like this a great deal or a fair amount) or at the national level (42%);
  • A relatively small proportion of the public say they ‘will definitely’ spend time doing voluntary work on a range of activities – approximately one in ten people say they will definitely volunteer in a range of ways;
  • Half of the public (51%) agree that ‘when people like me get involved in their local community they really can change the way their area is run’, with one in five people (21%) who disagree.This is much higher than the perceived efficacy of getting involved in national politics where just three in ten (30%) agree that ‘when people like me get involved in politics, they really can change the way the UK is run’;
  • Segmentation analysis identifies a key group of people for the success of the Big Society, "Willing localists" make up 14% of the adult population and while they are not currently actively involved they do seem willing and likely to become so in most community activities, especially locally.
Technical details: results are based on interviews with 1,197 adults aged 18+ in Great Britain.  Respondents were interviewed face-to-face in home between 3 - 9 December 2010.

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