Voter engagement in the UK - Political and Constitutional Reform Contents

Annex 2: Summary of Outreach event at the University of Sheffield, 5 June 2014

On 5 June 2014 the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee held an outreach event at the University of Sheffield. Graham Allen MP, Fabian Hamilton MP, and Mr Andrew Turner MP led discussions on three main questions with attendees. These were:

·  Why do you think people don't vote or register to vote?

·  How do you think the media impacts on people's perceptions of politics?

·  What do you think could be done to get more people engaged in politics and elections?

Members of the public were invited to contribute to discussions on these questions, and also to write their views on several wallsheets. A summary of comments made is included below, with comments posted on wallsheets repeated verbatim.

Why do you think people don't vote or register to vote?

Difficulty of getting real people to get involved with politics and become politicians

People being informed by the media (eg. Daily Mail)

Elitism in political parties

Engaging in politics is a luxury for people with limited time and other responsibilities

Young people don't identify with any of the main parties

First past the post voting system puts people off

All the candidates look and sound the same

Feeling disengaged

No-one represents their views

Nothing they want to vote for

Won't make a difference

Lack of online voting

Candidates and parties are so similar

Politicians aren't representative of wider community

Safe seats-not going to make a difference

Ordinary MPs have no power

Need to discuss postal voting

Voting systems-problems with First Past the Post

Parties attacking other parties

Lots of people not involved in politics at all

Uncertainty about "what" they are actually voting for (disconnect between party and ideology)-both before and after the election

Very few opportunities for people to talk and meet and debate politics without stress

Elections are essentially social activities, but voting feels like an individual activity

Voting is so antiquated, the way it is done. If I can bank from my phone, why can't I vote? Is it because you don't really want young people?

At what level does a very low turn-out render a vote non-legitimate?

A security guard on the door suggests you are afraid of the people you represent

Visibly, you don't represent us. You wear suits, you are all male

Lack of reflection with MPs class and culture

MP's self-preservation

Lack of education and engagement with local people

Citizens disconnected

No feeling of "community"

People feel that decisions made in London don't affect them when they live outside London

Young people feel they are not allowed to "make a difference"

A lack of time to understand the issues-people say they don't vote as they don't understand

Political tribalism is a real problem

Those with "alternative" political views are seen as an enemy of the establishment

Widespread cynicism

Expenses scandal

All the same people-think they know it all

Impact of single issue politics-sense of power without any need for compromise

Existing parties are seen as corrupt

Vote doesn't count-safe seat

They are all the same

There was only one woman from your team. She moved the tables and mopped up spilled coffee. She didn't speak at all

Confusion of where your voice should be directed-ie. Facebook? Twitter? MP? Pub?

Difficult to find information about parties. Do not want to read through hundreds of pages to understand policies

Democracy broken-it is for the next generation to design the replacement system

A view among the young that they are not qualified to contribute to policy making

How do you think the media impacts on people's perceptions of politics?

Media has a massive negative impact-focuses on personalities over issues

Politicians let media drive agenda

Media is corporately owned

Politicians are afraid of changing their mind

Politicians need to be braver and say what they think and work together

Government needs to take responsibility for language and message

Media exists to entertain and not inform

Need a separate voice that is informative

"Scroungers" and "Strivers" does not send a very inclusive message of equally important citizenship

Stop politics dealing in perceptions-and their manipulation, and deal solely with reality

Politicians play into the media's stranglehold. Don't do it-get back to grassroots community organising

The media (Daily Mail) drive agenda and politicians play into it-eg. Who is saying why immigration is a good thing? Politicians need to be brave

The BBC is supposedly neutral and yet they were the reason why UKIP garnered so many votes due to the amount of coverage they gave the party

The media diminish or illuminate political debate by the confrontational way they interview

What do you think could be done to get more people engaged in politics and elections?

Making issues tangible so people feel motivated to get involved

Far better political education at school

Making politicians more representative (eg. gender balance)

Parliament taking responsibility to present debates clearly (can't rely on media)

Making it easier for people from a disadvantaged background to participate

Need to look at wider civic engagement (other forms of participation)

Making voting easier (eg. advertising postal voting)

Considering how to better engage with young people

Electoral reform (proportional representation, making parties chase every vote)

Open primaries

Compulsory voting

Celebrating voting

Making election day a public holiday

Automatic registration of students at universities

Use of social media

"I have voted" stickers


Political education

Community spaces

Being represented

"None of the above" option at elections

Different voting system (eg. rank the candidates)

Clearer information

Grass roots level education

Parliament needs to encourage debate on issues

Visibility-not just at election time

Give people something to vote for

Focus on grassroots politics

Positive election material (not negative)

Appeal to duty to vote

More public involvement with parties

Local party members to vote on policy


Educate people before elections. The leaflet system isn't very useful

Better, more responsive communications

Address economic issues in the North

Engagement with public over policy

More events in regions

Increase representation of BME people and women-needs to go right down to selection of candidates

X-factor style polling of constituents' interests and views

Better use of technology

Online voting

More visibility

Develop think tanks reflective of society

"None of the above" on ballot paper

Knowledge that their vote will (not can) influence something

Let real people be politicians-working/low income people/women not represented-don't have time or money to leaflet but would like to be involved

Other voting options that young people connect with-internet/twitter

When we teach children about politics in time we might get results

More funding for public engagement-primary trips to Westminster? Question Time?

Party members should be deciding policy at conferences, not voting on a pre-decided agenda-would encourage new membership that their voice/vote counts

Citizens should make policies-not just choose between them

Not proportional representation-it distances elected representatives from voter

Proportional representation in the voting system and more consensus politics (eg. Denmark, Netherlands)

Challenge social isolation and a culture of individuality

Promote civic engagement

The ability to choose candidates to represent you without joining a party

Rights and responsibilities agenda

Make politics relevant to people's lives by taking politics out into communities

Parliament could take the responsibility for framing "issue" debate in appropriate language/style for particular interest groups

Support National Voter Registration Day

Maybe an opt-out system of voting

Compulsory voting

Online voting-extremely important to increase young people engagement

Empowered civil society through community organisations

Saturday or Sunday voting

A detailed job description for our candidates

Promote and support better community connectivity

Postal vote needs to be publicised

Greater engagement with stay at home parents-through local play groups and daytime or public transport engagement

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2014
Prepared 14 November 2014