Informing and engaging citizens

Reading political tea leaves: forecasting British general election results

Reading political tea leaves: forecasting British general election results

Political polling has faced difficulties during recent UK elections. Drawing on methods used for US elections and elsewhere, Philippe Mongrain therefore proposes a new forecasting model, which takes into account the state of the economy, the cost of ruling for the incumbent party, leadership approval ratings and previous election results, and offers some improvements on existing polls for forecasting the vote share of all contending parties.

There is a massive class and race-based chasm in digital activism in the US

There is a massive class and race-based chasm in digital activism in the US

A great deal of research and commentary about online spaces focuses on who consumes online content and how. But what about those who are producing content online? In new research, Jen Schradie looks at activism in North Carolina around labour laws, and finds that middle and upper class groups are much more likely to be digital activists, while working class – and predominantly African American – groups are not using online spaces for activism as much. She writes that not only do most working-class activists simply not have the time to be online, but they also frequently do not feel empowered to use online spaces for activism, an issue which can be made worse by fears about retaliation from employers. 

The deep roots of the trust crisis

The deep roots of the trust crisis

Sigmund Freud, the public affairs industry and the internet may all have played a part in declining levels of public trust, write Isabelle Stanley and Rod Dowler. Measures to restore trust could include independent media fact-checking and research and greater transparency in political donations.

Are there any benefits to divided parliamentary parties?

Are there any benefits to divided parliamentary parties?

Intra-party dissent is generally considered a bad thing – for parties seeking power and for voters wishing to make sense of political conflicts. However, using a survey experiment to test people’s responses to different forms of intra-party policy disputes, Eric Merkley finds that there are circumstances in which voters find moderate divisions useful as cues for evaluating policy choices in light of their own preferences.

Why it is essential we design the right digital democracy tools to suit local conditions

Why it is essential we design the right digital democracy tools to suit local conditions

Online tools that improve citizens’ access to information about their political system and enable greater democratic participation have become central to the political landscape in many democratic countries. A new report examines how such tools have worked in Sub-Saharan Africa, and finds that they can be effective, as long as initiatives are designed for each country’s circumstances, writes Rebecca Rumbul.

Why neoliberal approaches to policy are detrimental to democratic participation

Why neoliberal approaches to policy are detrimental to democratic participation

The neoliberal introduction of market principles to the governance of public institutions has eroded faith in more democratic forms of deliberation and decision-making, argues Bradley Allsop. Our response should be to encourage greater workplace democracy and more collective, cooperative forms of local participation.

The Brexit vote and Trump’s election were decided democratically. So why don’t they feel that way?

The Brexit vote and Trump’s election were decided democratically. So why don’t they feel that way?

The Brexit referendum and Trump’s election were each decided by a free and fair vote, yet large proportions of UK and US citizens have trouble accepting them as truly  ‘democratic’. A working democracy requires more than free elections; it requires additional institutions, such as well-functioning political public sphere and a responsive political party system, to channel citizens’ voices into productive public debate and foster a sense of ‘collective democratic will’, writes Brian Milstein. If these institutions are in a state of decay, democratic politics can start to appear unfocused and erratic – we can even find ourselves subject to decisions that were ‘formally’ democratic, yet somehow don’t ‘feel’ democratic, he argues.

Full of sound and fury: Is Westminster’s e-petitioning system good for democracy?

Full of sound and fury: Is Westminster’s e-petitioning system good for democracy?

Online petitions to Parliament have become a ubiquitous part of political campaigning. However, writes Carys Girvin, as the UK system is currently designed, without mechanisms for real public deliberation, they can be crude tools that fail to enhance participatory forms of democratic decision-making. Examples from Germany and Finland suggest possible improvements.

Do party leaflets and canvass visits increase voter turnout?

Do party leaflets and canvass visits increase voter turnout?

Experiments in the US consistently find that Get Out The Vote campaigns boost participation at election time. Is the same true for Britain? Using a field experiment carried out in cooperation with the Liberal Democrats in May 2017, Joshua Townsley finds that leaflets and canvass visits did boost turnout, but that postal voters were unaffected by campaign contact.

Patriotism, pessimism and politicians: understanding the vote to Leave

Patriotism, pessimism and politicians: understanding the vote to Leave

Ben Worthy reflects on the numerous overlapping reasons for the Brexit vote, the parallels with previous elections, and why a second vote risks exacerbating the anti-elite sentiments that underpinned it.