Informing and engaging citizens

A changing democracy: the British political tradition has never been more vulnerable

A changing democracy: the British political tradition has never been more vulnerable

Never before has the British political tradition been more contested, write Matthew Hall, David Marsh and Emma Vines. They explain that British democracy is facing three major challenges – Scottish independence, Brexit, and anti-politics – and these have the potential to force change on an otherwise stale political establishment.

Evidence from Scotland and Wales: representatives elected via party lists are less likely to reply to constituents – but we should be careful about the conclusions we draw

Evidence from Scotland and Wales: representatives elected via party lists are less likely to reply to constituents – but we should be careful about the conclusions we draw

Websites such as WriteToThem.com make it simple for constituents to contact their elected representatives, but how responsive are politicians to these communications? And does the system by which they are elected shape their responses? Research by Alex Parsons and Rebecca Rumbul shows that under the UK’s Additional Member Systems, constituency representatives are more likely to reply than those elected via party list. This raises further research questions about the subjects they reply about and different priorities for representatives under this system.

The Irish Citizens’ Assembly on the 8th Amendment is a model for participatory democracy, which other democratic countries should follow

The Irish Citizens’ Assembly on the 8th Amendment is a model for participatory democracy, which other democratic countries should follow

Ireland’s referendum to repeal the 8th Amendment of its constitution, and so liberalise the country’s abortion laws, was preceded by a Citizens’ Assembly which recommended these reforms. This form of democratic participation, which crucially was state funded and informed the Irish government’s approach, is a model for producing better democratic decision making, argues Jack Bridgewater.

Are citizens good judges of government performance? Evaluations of promise keeping by governing parties

Are citizens good judges of government performance? Evaluations of promise keeping by governing parties

Only a minority of UK citizens think that politicians generally keep their election promises. However, research by Robert Thomson and Heinz Brandenburg indicates that the public are  good at evaluating whether politicians have kept specific policy pledges, but this is affected by their pre-existing levels of distrust in politicians and in particular parties.

The limitations of opinion polls – and why this matters for political decision making

The limitations of opinion polls – and why this matters for political decision making

Recent research by Jennings and Wlezien has demonstrated that political polling has remained as accurate as ever in terms of margin of error in the week prior to an election. However, polls are usually publicly judged on whether they call the result correctly. In this, writes Sean Swan, they have been less accurate over recent UK elections. This has particular consequences for how and when political leaders make decisions about discretionary elections, and so it matters that we understand polls and their limitations correctly.

Why facilitators are necessary to ensure high-quality public deliberation in citizens’ assemblies

Why facilitators are necessary to ensure high-quality public deliberation in citizens’ assemblies

Democratic Audit has recently published several articles on the potential for citizens’ assemblies to resolve entrenched political problems, in particular for  power-sharing in Northern Ireland, but what is required to make such initiatives work? Keisha Gani argues that facilitators are vital to encourage deliberation and inclusion, which are both necessary for well-designed participatory democracy

England’s local elections 2018: Theresa May holds on, but the Conservatives remain on the precipice

England’s local elections 2018: Theresa May holds on, but the Conservatives remain on the precipice

The results for England’s local elections on 3 May indicate that the Conservatives and Labour parties remain neck and neck for national vote share. Ben Margulies argues that, though Theresa May has been more successful in local elections then elsewhere in her premiership, the Conservatives remain in a precarious position, with no easy path to regaining a majority.

Why mass email campaigns are failing to connect MPs, charities and the people they represent

Why mass email campaigns are failing to connect MPs, charities and the people they represent

Mass email campaigns and online petitions have become a ubiquitous part of modern political campaigning. However, writes Jinan Younis, there is an increasing disconnect between those who organise such campaigns and the people whose lives are affected by the issues they raise. Charities and other campaigning organisations need to rethink how they structure digital campaigns.

Why do our feelings about politics matter – and do they matter more now?

Why do our feelings about politics matter – and do they matter more now?

It is too simplistic to argue that current heated debates about politics, especially in the context of Brexit and Trump, are due to the fact that our emotions about politics matter more now than before. Laura Jenkins argues that our feelings about politics have always mattered. In fact, these recent unexpected political outcomes could prove to be an example of what happens when people’s feelings about politics are neglected for too long.

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: let this be the high-water mark for impunity

Facebook and Cambridge Analytica: let this be the high-water mark for impunity

The problems we see at social media companies today are the by-product of a laissez-faire approach to regulation, writes MacKenzie F. Common.