| ||The Hansard Society has published a report on ‘Connecting Citizens to Parliament’. |
The report analyses data drawn from an online questionnaire (sample size 2,005) and focus groups held around the country on levels of public participation with politics and parliament and recommends ways in which Parliament can engage more effectively with hard to reach groups.
The report argues that those displaying high levels of political engagement “are not representative of society as a whole and likely to be more highly educated, part of a higher socio-economic group, male and older.”
‘Democratic outsiders’ form the majority, which the report defines as those “not yet interested in politics, policy and current affairs”.
Others, the report argues, “have a latent or perceived interest but lack the skills, resources or knowledge to be able to engage.”
“Some of them might be relatively easy to engage with, others, however, are significantly disenfranchised not just from Parliament and politics but from many other aspects of British life, often by way of factors of multiple deprivation that leave them unaware, unable or unwilling to engage.”
From the research, a framework and supporting recommendations are proposed to improve political literacy and public involvement by “increasing the opportunities available to disengaged and, in particular, hard to reach groups. This in turn will drive opportunities for them to become more aware of and involved in the life and activities of Parliament.”
Changes to public awareness and participation will require “a number of smaller cumulative step-changes,” according to the report such as “increasing the availability of information about Parliament in local areas and providing a strong online resource for citizens to learn more about its work and the way it functions.”
However the report suggests that Parliament needs to go further and utilize differentiated means of communication to connect to people using different formats for different audiences and through different channels. Social network and community ties and associations are identified as important with regards to awareness-building and knowledge transfer, as “we learn best from those we know and trust.”
The report gives examples of “placing relevant, easy to understand information about Parliament in popular newspapers and magazines, using accessible, engaging online videos and the potential for daytime television and soap operas to be used to convey information and build awareness about Parliament. These strategies are designed to build greater awareness of Parliament, what it does and how it works, in people’s lives and help reduce barriers to engagement caused by lack of awareness and lack of knowledge."
The report also recommends the opportunity for young people from hard to reach groups “to experience life in Parliament and how this knowledge can be shared through their own local community networks.”
The report further explores the role of education to “ensuring that political literacy is enshrined in our compulsory curricula but also that tertiary and vocational study considers how the work of Parliament can be related to the subject area in innovative and practical ways. It is not simply formal education that can drive an uptake in awareness and, ultimately, engagement; community-based, informal and social learning are also important.”
The report is an important reference point for the British Muslim community, which traditionally has lower levels of participation with parliament and the political process.
The full report is available to read here.
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