Informing and engaging citizens

A tale of two failures: poor choices and bad judgements on the road to Brexit

A tale of two failures: poor choices and bad judgements on the road to Brexit

How did we get where we are on Brexit? Many major political events are shaped by institutions and long-term social changes, but the political choices of leaders matter too. Ben Worthy assesses how the short-term decisions of David Cameron and Theresa May have led to this avoidable Brexit mess.

Top-down or bottom-up? Campaigns, social media, and the Scottish independence referendum

Top-down or bottom-up? Campaigns, social media, and the Scottish independence referendum

Using the 2014 referendum as a case study, Ana Ines Langer, Michael Comerford and Des McNulty look at the extent to which the use of social media by campaigns follows the command and control model, or a more bottom-up, decentralised approach. They find that depending on a number of factors, some campaigns selectively adopt digital tools that fit with the traditional top-down model; in other cases, the dynamics created by linking to other grassroots organisations can have transformative effects.

Democratising Hansard: continuing to improve the accessibility of parliamentary records

Democratising Hansard: continuing to improve the accessibility of parliamentary records

The official, substantially verbatim report of what is said in both houses of Parliament is an essential tool for ensuring democratic accountability. This record, Hansard, contains a wealth of data, but it is not always fully accessible and easy to search. Lesley Jeffries and Fransina de Jager explain how a new project, Hansard at Huddersfield, aims to improve access to the Hansard records and contribute new ways of searching the data.

Economic voting and party positions: when and how wealth matters for the vote

Economic voting and party positions: when and how wealth matters for the vote

Does the ownership of economic assets matter for how people vote? Drawing on new research, Timothy Hellwig and Ian McAllister find the answer is yes. They argue that by changing their policy positions, parties can shape the influence of asset ownership on voter decisions, if there is sufficient party polarisation.

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.