Previously unreleased polling reveals the worrying extent to which British voters feel ‘alienated and unrepresented’ at Westminster.
Amid huge levels of party fragmentation, the BMG Research polling for the ERS shows voters are united on one thing – they feel powerless and want a new approach at Westminster.
The findings follow a new report, Westminster Beyond Brexit: Ending the Politics of Division.
They show that nearly all voters feel powerless and unheard at Westminster: only 4% of respondents feel their views are entirely represented by at least one of the parties at Westminster.
And just 4% feel they have a lot of opportunities to inform and influence decisions made by MPs at Westminster. That includes remaining supporters of the big parties: 64% of Conservative voters and 62% of Labour voters feel they have few or no opportunities to influence and inform decisions at Westminster. This increases to 85% among Brexit Party supporters. This is not a healthy position for a democracy to be in.
Yet despite the internal party unrest over the May/Corbyn talks, the public want to see parties work together to break deadlock. Nearly half of respondents (49%) think parties should try to work together to find solutions to problems even if this requires breaking promises made at the previous election. Fewer than a third of respondents (31%) think parties should never break promises at the last election, even if this means agreement might not be possible.
A majority of Conservative (55%) and Liberal Democrat (62%) supporters, and a plurality of Labour supporters (48%) prefer cooperation as a way of tackling the problems facing the UK.
However, voters believe the current political system is broken. 3 in 5 respondents (64%) think the current political system should encourage cooperation, with fewer than one in five (19%) saying that it encourages cooperation now. This is consistent across parties, with 18-24s most likely to support parties working together.
The ERS say that unless democratic reforms are made now, levels of distrust and disillusionment will reach ‘dangerous new levels’. The ERS have renewed Lord Hailsham’s warning that the UK currently risks resembling an ‘elective dictatorship’, with few opportunities for meaningful public involvement.
The leading democracy group say Britain needs to scrap the ‘Westminster model’ of centralised politics and switch to a new kind of democracy.
The Society are calling for a constitutional convention on UK’s democratic future, abolition of the House of Lords to replace it with a chamber of nations and communities, and a systematic use of ‘citizens’ assemblies’ to bring the country together.
Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:
“These figures reveal the staggering extent to which voters feel alienated and disillusioned with our politics. It is no surprise the party system is breaking apart, as voters struggle to be heard in a ‘winner takes all’ political system that too often silences millions.
“The fissures in the main political parties increase the urgency of the need for real political reform. The party system is fragmenting but the structures of Westminster remain stubbornly locked in the 19th century.
“The need for an overhaul of the centralised, adversarial politics we witness in Westminster is becoming more urgent by the day. There are real dangers in failing to reform Westminster’s struggling system – with more and more people feeling left on the sidelines.
“Now is the time to move to a truly representative, participatory politics, where every vote counts and people know their voice will be heard. It is a travesty that the European elections last Thursday were the first time many people felt their voice was heard and their vote was counted.
“This polling for our new report ‘Westminster Beyond Brexit: Ending the Politics of Division’ shows an electorate hungry for change. It is time to turn that energy into something positive: an agenda for genuinely empowering voters and dealing with the dire democratic deficit we have in this country.”
Notes for Editors
ERS poll conducted by BMG Research (fieldwork 7–10 May 2019), sample 1,541 GB adults. Data weighted.