Participation & voting behaviour

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Politics and Democracy

Politics is about how we are governed. Ways in which decisions are made about government; where power lies, how governments and states work, and different theories such as democracy, equality, tyranny and violence. 

Power is the ability to get things done, and authority is the ability to direct others. Democracy means 'people power'. In UK democracy, a few govern and the mass of people follow. Limited democracy is when a few act on behalf of many. 

Direct democracy is the opportunity to partake in political decision making. Citizens gathered together and voted directly on isssues of current interest and concern. E.g Ancient Greece.

Indirect democracy is people voting on issues in large and more industrial societies, as it is not possible to all come together to discuss issues, therefore elect representatives on their behalf. E.g UK and MPs. 

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Britain is Democratic

Britain is democratic- 

  • Open and organised opposition
  • Political equality
  • Increased use of referendums from 1997
  • Wide range of political parties and pressure groups
  • Free and fair elections
  • Free and open media
  • Independent judiciary
  • Open government 
  • Checks and limitations on power of government
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Britain is not Democratic

Britain is not Democratic-

  • Low levels of turnout at general elections
  • Rise of pressure groups
  • Transfer of government power from elected bodies towards unelected quangos
  • Absence of bill of rights
  • Lords reform stalled and no reform in HofC
  • Erosion of Civil Liberties
  • Use of FPTP
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Main forms of Political Participation

Political participation is an individuals attempt to influence who should govern and decisions made. Can be voluntary or forced. Forms of political participation:

  • Voting
  • Referendums
  • Contact local politician
  • Member of political party
  • Wearing party badge or putting up campaign poster
  • Seeking election to parliament
  • Membership of pressure groups
  • Attending meeting, canvassing, or distributing leaflets
  • Television or radio phone-in programme
  • Participating opinion polls or focus groups
  • Taking direct action- protest, march, graffiti
  • Political violence 
  • Political discussion
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Why is there less participation today?

  • Voting most usual form of political participation. 1979 76% turnout, 2010 65%
  • Disillusionment with the performance of parties and politicians.
  • Party differences have narrowed- distinctions between party programmes are not fundamental ones- New Labour, 'catch-all' parties.
  • Significant population forms an uninformed, uninterested, and alienated electorate.
  • Untrustworthy politicians- tutition fees 2010 lib dems
  • Wasted votes- smaller parties have no chance, FPTP
  • May reflect contentment- satisfaction with the conduct of affairs
  • Social participation declining, people not talking as much, less engaged in public affairs as a community
  • People see involvement in pressure groups as more important

Examples:

  • Only 20% contacted a politician in 2001
  • 80% of British pupils engaged in very little or no discussion of politics
  • 25% inactive
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