POST - Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology

Trends in Political Participation

Published Friday, June 12, 2015

Over the last fifty years in the UK, some aspects of participation in formal politics have decreased, such as political party membership. But new forms of participation, such as online activism, have emerged, which may become increasingly important, especially for younger people. This POSTnote discusses trends in political participation, with a focus on new forms, drivers of these trends and how UK democratic institutions are responding.

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Key points in this POSTnote include:

  • Political participation includes involvement in formal politics, such as voting in elections, and informal activities, such as activism and political consumerism.
  • Participation in key aspects of formal UK politics has declined over the past 50 years. Drivers of disengagement include mistrust of politicians, and concerns that the system is unrepresentative and lacks relevance.
  • Young people are increasingly likely to participate in new forms of informal politics, often based on single issues and facilitated by the internet.
  • Democratic institutions may be able to harness interest in informal political participation as a way of increasing engagement in formal processes.
  • Challenges remain around how to engage people who are not involved in any formal or informal political process.

POSTnotes POST-PN-0498

Authors: Daniel Slade; Abbi Hobbs

Topics: Central government, Elections, Local government, Parliament, Political parties, Public administration, Public inquiries

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The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology.