Paper summary: Politics

Disengaged and disconnected? Trends in attitudes towards politics

Concerns about the levels of political engagement amongst voters in Britain have often been expressed in the wake of much lower turnouts at recent general elections. Soon after coming to power the Coalition said it wanted to restore our faith in politics. Has it succeeded?

Political spectators, not activists

While most are not normally active in politics, many do follow what is happening.

  • Less than half have engaged in a political action other than voting or signing a petition.
  • But nearly two-thirds (65%) follow political news on a daily basis.
  • And half say they sometimes talk about politics to family and friends.

Growth in disconnection not reversed

Long-term trends towards greater voter disconnection have not been reversed during the Coalition’s time in office, though our interest in politics is undiminished.

  • Only 17% trust governments most of the time, just as only 16% did in 2009, but far less than the 38% who did in 1986. 
  • Fifty-seven per cent believe they have a duty to vote, in line with the 58% who did so in 2009, but down from 76% in 1987. 
  • Thirty-two per cent say they have “quite a lot” or “a great deal” of interest in politics, similar levels to 1986, when 29% expressed this view.

Coalition government has become unpopular

Support for the principle of coalition government has fallen heavily since 2010, but this has not
generated greater concern about the health of Britain’s democracy.

  • Only 29% now prefer coalition to single party government, down from 45% before the
    Coalition was formed.
  • But 57% appear to think that democracy works at least reasonably well in Britain, little
    changed from a decade ago.

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