||The Independent on Friday covered the results of the survey commissioned by the Committee on Standards in Public Life which found that four in ten voters feel so “alienated” from Britain's political parties that they will not consider voting for any of them at the next general election.
The survey of 1,900 people was conducted by TNS-BMRB and involved giving people the option of voting for either one of the three main parties; the UK Independence Party, the Green Party, the British National Party, Respect, another un-named party; no party or the "don't know” option.
The researchers found that 40 per cent of people surveyed felt "disconnected" or "alienated" from party politics and that they "hold sceptical or deeply sceptical perceptions of standards and do not trust those in public life." This figure increases to 46 per cent amongst the under-30s with many young people saying they feel "disengaged" from the party system.
Lord (Paul) Bew, the crossbench peer who chairs the Committee on Standards in Public Life, explained the significance of the reports findings to The Independent: "One particular cause for concern from the research is the number of people, especially young people, who feel disconnected from the political system and political parties."
There are fears that the survey results could lead to a record low turnout in the 2015 general election. The last election in 2010 saw a turnout of under two thirds of British voters, or 65%. Turnout in 2001 and 2005 was 59% and 61% respectively.
The Committee has undertaken investigations into public attitudes towards conduct in public life every two years for the past ten and over this period there has been a substantial decline in the percentage of respondents rating standards as ‘high’ or ‘very high’. The percentage of respondents rating standards as ‘quite poor’ or ‘poor’ has steadily increased, showing a clear negative trend.
The other main findings of the report are:
There is a very high level of confidence expressed in the fairness with which people will be treated by a range of public services in areas where the vast majority of people have most experience of the public sector such as doctors, police, planning officers.
The analysis of the cumulative data shows that public attitudes are responsive to events and their presentation and that public confidence can be improved as well as damaged by the way in which individuals and groups of individuals behave in public life.
Over the past five surveys, public perceptions of a range of professions to tell the truth demonstrate consistent relative ratings. High court judges and police officers score highly while tabloid journalists and government ministers and MPs in general, score poorly. Levels of trust are slightly higher among younger respondents, those from higher social grades and those from ethnic minorities.
In the summary, the committee warns that “an entrenched political disenchantment…appears to have acquired a growing foothold in the British public" and recommends further research to assess whether this "harbours the potential for rejection of the system of representative democracy and for democratic norms."
The Independent also features the result of a ComRes poll which shows a strong positive correlation between age and voting. Only 34 per cent of 18-24 year-olds say they are absolutely certain to vote at the next election, rising to 41 per cent of 25-34 year-olds; 46 per cent of 35-44 year-olds; 56 per cent of 45-54 year-olds; 61 per cent of 55-64 year-olds and 68 per cent of those aged 65 and over.
Andrew Hawkins, the chairman of ComRes, said: "The evidence all points to people being turned off by the traditional party system. This firstly became apparent because of the decline in party memberships, and is now demonstrated in lower turnout and broadening of the spread of parties outside the main ones which people will support.
“But it is not a straightforward question of young people being more cynical than older age groups. Older people are more likely than young people to think politicians are too reckless about how they spend taxpayers' money and to think they don't have principles any more. It seems that the traditional ways for parties to connect with people, and the young in particular, are failing."
Levels of disenchantment with political institutions and political leaders and declining levels of trust have been covered previously in reports by the Hansard Society and the British Social Attitudes Survey.
The BSA 2012 survey shows that on the issue of public trust, “There appears to be significant public scepticism towards politicians and government. Only around one in six people trust either British governments or the Westminster parliament “a great deal” or “quite a lot”, while less than one in ten trust British politicians. By contrast, almost six in ten (59%) indicate “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in the police.”