2015 Audit on Political Engagement
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Monday April 18 2016
The Hansard Society has published its 13th Audit on Political Engagement (APE) report examining attitudes to political engagement. The survey is compiled via a face to face questionnaire by pollsters Ipsos MORI and draws comparisons with previous years’ APEs in order to understand changes in, for example, levels and types of political engagement among the British public. The annual report is intended to serve as a “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.”
The Audit on Political Engagement assesses popular attitudes on questions of knowledge and interest in politics, action and participation, efficacy and satisfaction with the political system and influence and involvement in political activity.
The survey reinforces some of the issues identified in previous surveys, such as the gaps in political engagement by age, socio-economic class and ethnicity.
The report shows a higher level of interest in and knowledge of politics, 57% and 55% respectively compared to 49% and 47% in the previous year. Perceived knowledge of the UK Parliament is at the highest level recorded, with a majority (52%) claiming to be knowledgeable for the first time in the Audit series. The number of people claiming to be at least a ‘fairly strong supporter’ of a political party rose compared to the previous year, at 33% up from 22%.
The report refers to the “election effect” suggesting that “an election clearly helps to drive up levels of interest in and knowledge of politics” but the public’s “satisfaction with the process and their sense of disempowerment in terms of the efficacy of their own actual or potential involvement in it remains stubbornly ingrained.”
Changes to levels of satisfaction with the way that Parliament works is modest, up from 27% to 33%. On sense of empowerment, just one in four British adults (25%) believe they have at least some influence over decision-making in their local area, falling to one in eight (13%) who feel they have similar influence over decision-making nationally.
Contrastingly, just under half would actually like to be involved in decision-making locally (46%) and four in 10 would like to do so nationally (41%). The public’s sense of influence over decision-making has risen by five percentage points at the local level since last year, but their perceived influence on national decision-making has decreased by four percentage points compared to last year.
Feeling that getting involved in politics is effective is high among younger group, 40% of 16-24 year olds agree getting involved in politics is effective compared to 24% of 75+ and 34% of 65-74. But older groups are more likely to engage in politics, with 75% of people aged 75+ and 80% of those aged 65-74 saying there are ‘certain to vote’ compared to 39% of 18-24 year olds.
The report shows significant gaps across all evaluated areas between the White majority and BME groups.
On interest in politics 60% White respondents say they are very of fairly interested in politics compared to 35% among BME groups and only 37% among BME groups say they are ’certain to vote’ compared to 62% for Whites.
White respondents are also more likely to report a knowledge of politics than BME groups, 57% compared to 43%, and are more likely to evince a knowledge of parliament, 54% compared to 37%. As the 2016 report observes, there is a strong correlation between familiarity and favourability, the more you know about something, the more likely you are to engage in it.
BME groups, however, show a higher level of satisfaction with current system compared to the White group, 38% compared to 32% and BME groups are also more likely than the White group to say that they feel getting involved is effective, 45% compared to 34%.
The report notes the work of the Hansard Society with BME groups on building links and “emphasising that Parliament is ‘your Parliament’”.
The 13th APE also notes gaps in political engagement among between age groups with 39% among 18-24 year olds saying they are ‘certain to vote’, lower than all age groups with the top score of 80% among 65-74 year olds and over 50% in all other groups.
On the EU referendum, the report notes that 63% of the public say they are interested in issues to do with the European Union but just 38% feel knowledgeable about the EU. With the EU referendum to be held in June, the report notes that 59% said they are ‘certain’ to vote in the referendum (scoring 10 out of 10) and a further 19% said they are ‘likely’ to vote (scoring 6-9). 9% said they are certain not to vote in the referendum, (scoring 1 out of 10) and 13% ‘not likely’ to vote (scoring between 2-5).
The report further shows that petitions are a growing means of political engagement with it forming the second most popular response to questions about ways in which individuals have engaged with parliament in the past 12 months.
One of the clearest findings across the Audit series by the Hansard Society is the extent to which political engagement is undermined by persistent inequality. There are important differences between the engagement levels by socio-economic class,, age and ethnicity across many indicators used in the Audit, including knowledge and interest, action and participation, and desire for involvement in politics.
The full report can be found here.