Audit of Political Engagement 16 – The 2019 Report

Hansard Society

The Audit of Political Engagement is a time-series study providing an annual benchmark to measure political engagement in Great Britain. It gauges public opinion about politics and the political system, and more broadly the general health of our democracy. The study provides a snapshot of public perceptions of, and engagement with, politics at a given moment in time. This Audit of Political Engagement was conducted by survey between 30th November and 12th December 2018 by Ipsos MORI.

The survey highlighted three main themes in political engagement at the time of publication in 2019.

Firstly, opinions towards the system of governing are at their lowest point in the 15-years of the Audit series – worse than in the aftermath of the MPs’ expenses scandal.

  • 72% of respondents say the system of governing needs ‘quite a lot’ or ‘a great deal’ of improvement.
  • The number of people who say the system needs ‘a great deal’ of improvement rose 8% from 2018 to 2019, to 37%.
  • Asked whether the problem is the system or the people, the largest group (38%) say ‘both’

Secondly, people are pessimistic about the country’s problems and their possible solution, with sizeable numbers willing to entertain radical political changes.

  • Well over half the public are downbeat about the state of Britain – 56% think Britain is in decline, 63% think Britain’s system of government is rigged to advantage the rich and powerful, and 66% think most big issues facing the country today don’t have clear solutions.
  • 54% say Britain needs a strong leader who is willing to break the rules.
  • 55% still think the big questions should be put to the public in referendums more often than today.

Finally, core indicators of political engagement remain stable but, beneath the surface, the strongest feelings of powerlessness and disengagement are intensifying.

  • 47% feel they have no influence at all over national decision-making – a new high for the Audit series.
  • 32% say they do not want to be involved ‘at all’ in local decision-making, a rise of 10% in a year.
  • The number who ‘strongly disagree’ that political involvement can change the way the UK is run (18%) has hit a 15-year high.