In what ways has political participation declined in the UK in recent years? (10 marks)


Exam practice: a decline in party membership.

Political participation has declined in recent years because there has been a decline in party membership:

  • in 1980 nearly 1.7 million people were members of a political party. 
  • This has declined to only 476,000 by 2008.
  • Conservative Party membership fell from 1.2 million to 0.17 million in the 2008. 
  • The Labour Pary lost around 0,5 million members by 2013.
  • The Liberals lost around 0.2 million members by 2013.
  • This shows a sense of partisan dealignment where people feel that there is no party that truly represents their views and opinions. 
  • Therefore this shows political participation has declined because people suffer from this and the parties may not have a manifesto that is strong enough to appeal to the public.

By joining a political party people are involved in influencing their politicians and taking part in campaigning. Their increasing unwillingness to do so shows a significant fall in participation.

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Voter Turnout

Another reason why political participation has declined in the UK is because of a fall in voter turnout:

  • in 1979 76% of the electorate turned out to vote. 
  • Whereas in 2001 it declined to 59.4% and by 2010, it only rised to 65.2%.
  • Voting is an important form of political participation because it is the most direct involvement of citizens in the selection of their political leaders, 

The decline in voter turnout is an important indicator of a fall in participation as people aren't politically involved when they don't vote.

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Partisan dealignment

Another reason why political participation has declined is because people suffer from partisan dealignment:

  • This means that people increasingly identify less closely with political parties than they used to.
  • Traditionally many working class supported and voted for Labour out of class loyalty.
  • Someone may suffer from partisan dealignment because they may have views that are represented by the Conservatives, whilst they have other views represented by Labour,

Such loyalty to a political party has declined significantly over the past 30 years, as more people have got richer etc and suggests that fewer people are taking an interest in politics and participation.

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Political apathy and disillusionment

Political participation has declined because of political apathy and disillusionment:

  • This is where citizens are not interested in politics so therefore they do not vote.
  • From 1950 to 2015 the turnout has decreased from 85% to 64%. 
  • This shows that, in recent years, people are gradually not taking part in politics.
  • This could be because of partisan dealignment or party ideology.
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