The public and Parliament: more engaged, less satisfied – Hansard Society audit

One of the most positive findings for Parliament is that a clear majority believes that it is essential “to our democracy” (73% – equaling 2016’s record score).

However, people do not think that parliament is doing a good job for them. Fewer than a third of people were satisfied with the way that parliament works, and not many more think parliament is doing a good job of representing their interests (38%).

Knowledge of parliament fell in the latest study; 45% claimed to know a great deal or a fair amount about parliament, down from 52% last year. This is similar to the level of knowledge about politics in general (49%) and the European Union (43%).

Increasing engagement with parliament
There were positive indicators around engagement with Parliament: overall just over half the public say they have engaged with Parliament in some way in the last year – a ten point increase from 2015. Also:

  • The proportion of the public who report watching or listening to a parliamentary debate or committee meeting (online, on TV or on radio) has increased from 31% to 39%
  • The number saying they have signed an e-petition is up from 15% to 22%
  • 12% contacted an MP or Peer with their views.

Some if this could be down to the seismic political events of the past year – public interest in Brexit and high-profile e-petitions on topics like Donald Trump’s proposed state visit will have increased people’s appetite to engage.

Arguably the most positive indicator in the study is the score on certainty to vote. 59% of respondents said that they would be certain to vote in an immediate general election. This is the highest recorded score in the 14 years of the Audit (joint with 2016). We won’t have to wait long to see if this is borne out.

Engagement by age
The overall message of this year’s report could be “increasingly engaged, but not satisfied”. However, looking at the data for younger people, the picture is bleaker. Variables on engagement, knowledge and effectiveness all show lower scores for younger age groups.

Other data used within chapter 2 of our briefing on political engagement shows a similar pattern – in December 2015, 67% of 20-24 year olds were registered to vote, compared with 93% of 55-64 year olds. IPSOS-Mori estimate that turnout of 18-24 year olds was 43% at the 2015 General Election, compared with 77% for 55-64 year olds.

The test
Arguably, the key indicator for engagement with politics and parliament is turnout at a general election. In 2015, turnout across the UK was 66%, slightly up on 2010, but still well below levels seen in the 20th Century.

The Audit provides some grounds for optimism; a record percentage were certain to vote. But again, this score varies significantly by age, from around two in five for 18-24 year olds, to four in five for over 65s. There are also large variations by social grade (ABs are most certain to vote), by qualification level and by income.

There will be many groups working to encourage participation in June’s general election; the challenge for them is not just whether they can increase overall turnout, but also whether they can increase participation among the young and other less politically engaged groups. If we accept that politics and Parliament are more effective when they represent the views of all constituents, Parliament too has a job to do encouraging everyone to register to vote. It is likely that if you are reading a Commons Library blog post you’re probably already going to vote in June, but perhaps someone you know isn’t. The deadline to register is 22nd May – please motivate someone you know to register and use their vote.

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  • Founded in 1944, the Hansard Society is a non-partisan research and education charity working in the UK and around the world to promote democracy and strengthen parliaments.
  • The information in this year’s Audit of Political Engagement is based on a Political Engagement Poll undertaken by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Hansard Society. The findings are based on a total of 1,771 face-to-face interviews with adults aged 18+ conducted between 2 December 2016 and 15 January 2017, which have then been weighted to the national population profile of Great Britain. This is the 14th year of the Audit, which began in 2004.
  • During the general election campaign, the Commons Library will not be publishing new briefings; Parliament’s Participation team will be encouraging people to register, to cast their vote on the 8 June and to continue to engage with Parliament following the election.

Picture credit: The British Parliament and Big Ben by MauriceCreative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)

 

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Queens Speech and State Opening of Parliament 2012

Queen delivering speech at State Opening of Parliament 2012.
Queen delivering speech at State Opening of Parliament.

Today at the State Opening of Parliament the Queen delivered her address outlining the legislative agenda of the Coalition Government for the forthcoming parliamentary session.

The State Opening takes place on the first day of a new parliamentary session, or shortly after a general election, and is the main ceremonial event of the parliamentary calendar.

You can watch the full speech on the UKParliament YouTube channel.

In total there are 15 bills and 4 draft bills proposed. These include:-

  • House of Lords Reform Bill – to modernise and reduce the membership of the House of Lords
  • Pension Bill – to raise the state pension age to 67 between 2026 and 2028 and make it more sustainable as average lifespan increases
  • Banking Reform Bill – to split banks into retail and investment arms and reduce taxpayer risk in the event of a bank going bust
  • Draft Communications Bill – could allow police and intelligence agencies to more easily collect data on texts and emails
An at-a-glance guide to the content of the Queen’s speech is available on the BBC website.

Following the Queen’s speech the House of Commons returns to its Chambers, the House of Lords is cleared, and the Debate of the Address begins: five days of debate on the content of the speech.

You can find out more about the State Opening of Parliament from this House of Lords Briefing Paper or from the UK Parliament website.

Results from UK Government Consultation on Scottish Independence

In January this year the UK Government published a consultation document to gather public opinion on the proposal by the Scottish National Party (SNP) to hold a referendum on Scottish independence. The consultation was open until Friday 9th March and gathered views from all members of the UK public.

On the 4th of April the UK Government published a command paper (Cm. 8326) summarising the 2,857 responses to the consultation. This document is available on-line from the Scotland Office by clicking the following link:-

Scotland’s Constitutional Future: Responses to the Consultation

Some notable results from the UK Government consultation are as follows:-

  • 75% of respondents agreed with the position of the UK Government that there should be a single question on Scotland’s constitutional status
  • 70% of respondents agreed with the UK Government that the referendum should take place sooner rather than later
  • 44% of respondents were in favour of the Scottish Government proposal that 16-17 year-olds be allowed to vote in the referendum, with 47% against

The ongoing Scottish Government consultation on the question of Scottish independence will run until Friday 11th May and can found at the following link:-

Your Scotland, Your Referendum

Budget 2012

Budget boxThe Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, presented his Budget to Parliament today, 21 March 2012. This is the third Budget of the Coalition Government. In his Budget speech the Chancellor outlined how the Government plans to raise and spend money in the coming year. Some key points of the Budget include:-

  • From April 2013, the 50p top rate of tax will be cut to 45p
  • Automatic review of state pension age to ensure it keeps pace with increasing lifespans
  • Personal income tax allowance raised to £9,205 from April 2013

You can find all of the Budget documents online on the HM Treasury website.

The House of Commons Library has produced a briefing paper on the Background to the 2012 Budget, and a Research Paper on economic indicators.

The full text of the Chancellor’s statement is available from the HM Treasury website.