Informing and engaging citizens

Membership organisations: how to boost numbers and activate engagement

Membership organisations: how to boost numbers and activate engagement

To help organisations increase their number of active members, Kate Dommett and Sam Power explain how people decide whether to join (and remain in) an organisation, as well as what may be keeping them from participating in its activities.

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. 

Digital campaigning and the GetUp effect in Australia’s 2016 election

Digital campaigning and the GetUp effect in Australia’s 2016 election

GetUp is a unique political organisation in Australian politics. Since their formation in mid-2005 they have accrued over 1,000,000 members, and fundraise about $8 million annually, from mostly small donations. In 2016 they had their most successful election campaign so far, writes Ariadne Vromen, in terms of both member mobilisation and political impact.

‘New poll suggests…’: How to tell when public opinion has really changed

‘New poll suggests…’: How to tell when public opinion has really changed

Every day we are being presented with new opinion polls on various social and political issues, but do these really represent public attitudes? Using a statistical method called bootstrapping to estimate sampling variance, Patrick Sturgis and Jouni Kuha explain how such an approach can improve the quality of debate about UK public opinion.

Why it’s not just about the outcome: citizens also care about democratic decision-making

Why it’s not just about the outcome: citizens also care about democratic decision-making

 A well-known claim for citizens’ involvement in politics is that, when things are going well, they care little about participating in decision-making processes. Michael A. Strebel, Daniel Kübler and Frank Marcinkowski test this claim, and find that, in fact, democratic participation and transparency matter for citizens too, independently of the specific policy outcome.

Making a 21st century constitution: the rules we have established for democracies are now outdated

Making a 21st century constitution: the rules we have established for democracies are now outdated

Democratic constitutions are unfit for purpose, with governments facing increased pressures from populists and distrust from citizens. The only way to truly solve these problems is through reform, argues Frank Vibert. He draws on his new book on the topic and sets out the ways in which constitutions should be revitalised.

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.