A designed graphic showing the report as a booklet and listing key facts: Month & Year - November 2023, Focus region - United Kingdom, Organisation - Democracy in the UK after Brexit and The Constitution Unit.A major new study by the Democracy in the UK after Brexit Project and The Constitution Unit delves into British public opinion on democracy. The research, spanning two large surveys and a citizens’ assembly, reveals a clear message: Britons are dissatisfied with the current state of their democracy and want significant change.

The report finds a widespread sense of disenfranchisement, with many feeling unrepresented by politicians perceived as lacking honesty and integrity. Trust in political leaders is particularly low (mirroring a recent study by Ipsos), although this sentiment is somewhat less pronounced among those who voted to leave the European Union or for the Conservative Party.

A graph showing how much influence people think they have on how the UK us governed. 34 % - far too little, 43% - somewhat too little, 16% - about the right amount, 1% - Somewhat too much, 5% Don't know, 0% - far too much.

Despite the dissatisfaction the state of democracy, there’s overwhelming support for democracy itself – with the key caveat that it delivers effective government. The report emphasizes a public desire for honest political discourse, alongside strong checks and balances to ensure accountability. People value freedoms of thought, speech, and access to information to make informed decisions.

Interestingly, the research suggests a population that’s not deeply divided between “populist” and “liberal” views of democracy. There’s a shared yearning for a system that truly reflects the will of the people.

Key Themes

Here are some key themes explored in the report:

  • Higher Ethical Standards: The public strongly desires honest politicians who take responsibility for mistakes and follow the rules. Robust independent regulation to investigate wrongdoing is seen as crucial.
  • Strengthening Parliament: People expect Parliament to play a more prominent role in shaping policy, representing all citizens, not just the governing party’s base. Calls include increased control over agendas and scrutinizing all legislative changes. Electoral reform to ensure fairer representation also finds significant support.
  • The Rule of Law Matters: Widespread support exists for the rule of law and the protection of human rights, especially core democratic rights like free speech. The public expects courts to safeguard these rights, even when it involves intervening in potential violations by new laws.
  • Public Participation: While there’s a strong expectation for responsiveness to public opinion, most Britons aren’t eager for a more active role in politics. The report suggests measures to encourage participation, including better education, information access, and media coverage.

The report concludes that Britons care deeply about the health of their democracy. It emphasizes the need for action on three key areas: upholding ethical standards, strengthening checks and balances, and fostering effective public participation. The onus lies on policymakers, media, and even campaigners to reflect on their responsibilities in restoring public trust and making democracy truly work for all.

Background

The report was published by the Democracy in the UK after Brexit Project and The Constitution Unit. It bases its findings on two large-scale surveys of the UK population, conducted in summer 2021 and summer 2022, and the Citizens’ Assembly on Democracy in the UK, which met over six weekends in late 2021.

 

Read the full report »