How well does the UK’s media system support democratic politics and represent citizens’ interests?

How well does the UK’s media system support democratic politics and represent citizens’ interests?

The growth of ‘semi-democracies’ across the world, where elections are held but are rigged by state power-holders, has brought into ever-sharper focus how much a country’s media system conditions the quality of its democracy. Free elections without some form of media diversity and balance clearly cannot hope to deliver effective liberal democracy. Ros Taylor and the Democratic Audit team look at how well the UK’s media system operates to support or damage democratic politics, and to ensure a full and effective representation of citizens’ political views and interests.

The Italian populist government is voluntarily heading towards the next political crisis (and it may have the upper hand)

The Italian populist government is voluntarily heading towards the next political crisis (and it may have the upper hand)

It is often assumed that once ‘populist’ parties sting (achieve a political breakthrough), they are likely to wither away and die. Valerio Alfonso Bruno and James F. Downes argue that this is not happening in Italy. They outline how its populist government, led by the Five Star Movement (M5S) and the League (Lega), may be ‘strategically’ leading the country into another political crisis that will enable them to retain the upper hand in Italian politics.

Posted in: EU politics, Populism
Campaign spending and voter turnout: does a candidate’s local prominence influence the effect of their spending?

Campaign spending and voter turnout: does a candidate’s local prominence influence the effect of their spending?

At election time, political candidates in Britain routinely spend significant sums of money on their local campaigns. Generally speaking, the more individual candidates spend, the higher turnout in that constituency. But while some candidates are major contenders in their area, many candidates who are unlikely to win also spend substantial sums on their campaigns. By analysing candidate spending data from the 2010 general election, Siim Trumm, Laura Sudulich and Joshua Townsley find that the money spent by viable contenders has a greater impact on voter turnout than spending by candidates who are unlikely to win. 

How democratic is the interest group process in the UK?

How democratic is the interest group process in the UK?

Between elections, the interest group process (along with media and social media coverage) is a key way in which citizens can seek to communicate with their MPs and other representatives, and to influence government policy-makers. For the 2018 Audit of UK Democracy, Patrick Dunleavy considers how far different social groups can gain access and influence decision-makers. How democratically does this key form of input politics operate? And how effectively are all UK citizens’ interests considered?    

How democratic are the UK’s political parties and party system?

How democratic are the UK’s political parties and party system?

For our 2018 Audit of UK Democracy, Patrick Dunleavy and Sean Kippin examine how democratic the UK’s party system and political parties are. Parties often attract criticism from those outside their ranks, but they have multiple, complex roles to play in any liberal democratic society. The UK’s system has many strengths, but also key weaknesses, where meaningful reform could realistically take place.

Book Review | Democracy Under Threat edited by Surendra Munshi

Book Review | Democracy Under Threat edited by Surendra Munshi

In Democracy Under Threat, editor Surendra Munshi brings together twenty contributors to explore the challenges facing democracy globally. While the collection largely avoids examining the role of capitalism in undermining democracy, this is a well-edited, stimulating and distinctive book that is highly recommended by Luke Martell.

Posted in: Book reviews
Are UK elections conducted with integrity, with sufficient turnout?

Are UK elections conducted with integrity, with sufficient turnout?

Across the world, there are many countries where elections take place but are rigged by governments or unfairly conducted. And even in core liberal democracies (like the United States) political parties have now become deeply involved in gerrymandering constituencies and partisan efforts at ‘voter suppression’. As part of our 2018 Democratic Audit, Toby S James looks at how well elections are run in the UK, and whether the systems for registering voters and encouraging turnout are operating effectively and fairly.

The backstop is dividing Northern Ireland. We urgently need new talks

The backstop is dividing Northern Ireland. We urgently need new talks

Brexit has become highly politicised in Northern Ireland. A damaging chasm is opening up between the two political blocs, and between the British and Irish governments, on the EU backstop. Mary C Murphy argues that a compromise formula is possible, but the lack of devolved government means new efforts – and new forums – will be needed to break the stalemate.

Should the rest of the EU follow Austria in reducing the voting age to 16?

Should the rest of the EU follow Austria in reducing the voting age to 16?

For the last decade, Austria has been the only country in the EU that allows voting at the age of 16 at all political levels. Paul Schmidt assesses whether this could offer a future model for the EU, and the possible lessons that can be learned from the Austrian experience.

The electoral decline of social democratic parties and the rise of the radical right in Europe during the refugee crisis

The electoral decline of social democratic parties and the rise of the radical right in Europe during the refugee crisis

Social democratic parties have experienced a significant electoral decline across Europe in recent years. James F. Downes and Edward Chan draw on the latest election data in demonstrating that social democratic parties have lost out considerably in the ongoing refugee crisis period, with populist radical right parties gaining considerably from this decline and achieving a high degree of electoral success at the ballot box. These results have important implications for the future of social democratic parties and for liberal democracy across Europe.

Posted in: EU politics