Unit 1: People, Politics & Participation
Participation & voting behaviour
What is politics?
Politics is about how we are governed. Ways in which decisions are made about government, states and public affairs: where power the people'.
In UK democracy, a few govern and the mass of people follow. The electors cast their vote every few years at an elect time.
Limited democracy - voters are giving away the right of decision making to a small number of elected representatives who make decisions on their behald
What are the differences between direct and indirect democracy?
In ancient Athens - every qualified citizen (not women, slaves or non-Athenians) had opportunity to participate in political decision making. Citizens gathered together and voted directly on issues of current interest and concern.
Not possible to all come together to discuss and vote on issues in large and more industrialised societies. Therefore elect representatives to act on their behalf. In UK MPs in Parliament for their specific constituency.
To what extent is Britain a democracy?
Britain is democratic:
Open and organised opposition.
Increased use of referendums from 1997.
Wide range of political parties and pressure groups - avenue for political participation and representation.
Protection of basic rights and liberties under the rule of law. Civil liberties and rights.
System of free and fair elections - wide franchise and secret ballot.
Free and open media.
Checks and limitations on power of government.
Britain is not democratic
Low levels of turnouts at general elections and other forms of participation.
Rise of (often extreme) single-issue pressure groups.
Transfer of government power from elected bodies towards unelected quangos.
Absence of bill of rights incorporated within constitution.
Lords reform stalled and no significant reform of House of Commons.
Erosion of civil liberties since attacks in USA and UK.
Use of first past the post system.
What are the main forms of political participation?
Political participation relates range of activities by which individuals attempt to influence who should govern and decisions make. Can be voluntary participation or forced participation (forced to vote in Australia)
Contact local politician
Member of political party
Wearing a party badge or putting up campaign poster
Seeking election to parliament
Membership of pressure groups
Attending, meeting, canvassing, distributing leaflets
Television or radio phone-in programme
Participating opinion polls or focus groups
Taking direct action - protest, march, graffiti, demonstration, political violence
Why is there less participation in politics today?
Voting most usual form of political participation. Turnout varied considerably and level of decline identified by POWER inquiry. In 1979 (76% turnout), 2001 (59.4% turnout), 2005 (61.3% turnout), 2010 (65.1%)
Disillusionment with the performance of parties in office and with the politicians who represent them. All as bad as each other.
Party differences have narrowed - distinctions between party programmes are not fundamental ones.
Significant population that forms an under-class, uninformed about, uninterested in and alienated from the political system.
Scepticism about politicians and what they promise and deliver.
Many alienated and feel that politics has nothing to offer them and is irrelevent. Least well off feel alienated.
Social disengagement has damaging consequences for political life. Social participation declining with people not talking as much as less engaged in public affairs as a community.
People see involvement in pressure groups and environmental and community issues as more important.
May reflect contentment - general satisfaction with the conduct of affairs.
Who participates and to what extent?
In most democracies, level of