What is Political Disengagement?
Low voter turnout can symbolize a host of issues in a country that selects its leaders through a representative democracy. Without enough people to elect a government to regulate their collective affairs, there is less scrutiny, and the best choice for the position is seldom chosen. Citizens are expected to be the driving force behind the decisions governments make. This requires them to attend and participate in voting for politicians or parties. This is often the bare minimum required of voters regarding civic duties. The citizenry can join in campaigning, demonstrating, and petitioning if they are motivated to partake. Such activities help to engage democratic or political engagement within the country.
A disengagement of political activities means limited involvement or participation by country members. Low Levels of political engagement present themselves through certain behaviours and attitudes towards the political system. A nation experiences this when the political climate does not promote individuals to be democratically engaged behaviourally and psychologically. This connection needs to occur with the political system and associated democratic norms.
A positively engaged citizenry does not mean political approval. This term requires active participation, such as protests and activisms for reforms. The critical factor here is the attitudes and behaviours of individuals and groups. Disaffection and discontent can be used broadly to define a lack of participation. This problem can eventually lead to substantial political disconnection, alienation and apathy. There are many reasons for this problem.
Significance of Political Disengagement?
Representative governments require high levels of political participation to enshrine their legitimacy. Healthy levels of political engagement reflect that the citizens believe they have a voice. This encourages them to take action to ensure the decisions and policies of lawmakers reflect their wishes.
Apathy is the most common form of low political engagement. The citizens often feel that voting will bring about no changes. Their situation remains unaffected, nor do they feel represented. In the U.K., there is a dark cloud over the declining voting statistics.
In 2001 the U.K. had a significantly low voter turnout of 59%. This election forced the U.K. to engage in substantial voter participation campaigns to help revitalize political engagement. The 2010 election showed a steady increase of 66% in voter turnout. A 72% turnout followed up this result in the 2016 referendum. These recent turnouts show that the U.K. is not suffering from a significant decline in voter turnout. Political participation declines when voters feel their vote won’t make a difference.
Voting can be considered crucial for democracy; however other activities help strengthen the governance system. The participation in political activities of various groups often varies. Young people often do not participate in political activities because they don’t feel they are represented in the lawmaking chambers. The youth vote is problematic because many feel government positions are reserved for the older generation. In 2016, 64% of 18-24s chose to exercise their voting rights.
What lowers Political Participation in the U.K.
Young people avoid voting because they doubt they will be voted for and elected. This problem is backed by statistics which show the average age of councillors, candidates and M.P.s in the U.K. is over 50.
Marginalized ethnic groups are less likely to be registered to vote. These groups do not feel they are significant enough in number to be voted for and elected.
The members of society who lack prestige often feel the system of democracy works against them whilst benefitting those in power. Citizens such as unskilled workers and those unemployed often show high levels of political disengagement.
Statistics show that equal numbers of men and women are equally likely to register to vote. Regardless, women were less likely to vote in the 2019 General Election. Due to the overwhelming number of men in politics, women tend to have more negative attitudes towards participating. The underrepresentation of women in local government and Parliament suggests they would be unhappy with how democracy functions.
What helps improve Political Participation
- Some political participation is seen as a civic duty. Citizens carry out these tasks to help foster the growth of democracy in their nation. These intrinsic motivations are personal. Relevant issues of high importance to the individual will often force them to act. When positive results are achieved through action, citizens often feel empowered and good about themselves. This feeling propels them to continue engaging in political participation.
- Peers and the parasocial effect are critical factors in improving political participation. These peer groups often stick together with peers, following common trends in voting patterns. The birth of social media has helped groups to promote their political activities much easier. Word of mouth is key to mass mobilization. Group psychology dictates that the more people participate, the more exponentially this membership can grow. For example, if a petition has numerous previous signatories, the likelihood that further people will sign it increases.
- Dedicated political organizations can help to encourage political participation in the U.K. to enhance democracy. These groups stand together to campaign, which has a combined effect on mobilizing citizens. Campaign organizations have the edge because of the audience they have at their disposal. Social media and digital marketing are essential to persuasive campaign communication. This tool is cheaper and often utilized by organizations to reach citizens and gain their support for a specific political cause. With enough support, mobilizing people to participate in political activities becomes more straightforward.
- The perception that voting and its consequences are important is also key to improving political participation. The citizens must believe these activities will have an impact, and there must be a sense of duty. Having a solid political framework that inducts citizens into politics is vital. This can take the form of school curriculums that teach politics, patriotism and political indoctrination. Instilling a sense of duty and importance in political activities reinforces the political intentions in society. Citizens who feel they are essential to a network of voters are more likely to participate.