Popular Understandings of Politics in Britain, 1937-2015

The Project

There is alienation and withdrawal from formal politics in many countries at the present time. In Britain, election turnout, party membership, and trust in politicians are all declining. Projects to renew democracy have struggled because the causes for such disenchantment and disengagement are not clear.

Numerous possible explanations for the rise of anti-politics have been put forward since the 1950s. Partisan dealignment, postmodernisation, the decline of social capital and consumerisation are examples of social change that have shaped public attitudes towards formal politics. Two-party decline, globalisation, the modernisation of electoral campaigning and media culture illustrate shifts in the political process that have influenced the relationship between citizens and politicians.

This project aims to offer two original contributions to debates in this area: more citizen voices; and analysis of datasets going back beyond the 1960s.

Bringing together human geographers, political scientists, historians and scholars of culture and society, this project  explores what and how British citizens have thought about formal politics since the 1930s.

Objectives include: to establish the range of popular understandings of politics among British citizens; to establish changes in prominence of certain popular understandings over time; and to suggest causes for these changes.

The research will include: a contextual review of existing survey data from Gallup, Ipsos-MORI, and National Opinion Polls; analysis of qualitative data found in the Mass Observation Archive; and integration of this historical research with existing research on political engagement in twenty-first century Britain.

You can read more about anti-politics in contemporary democracies here. And you can read more about how political parties have attempted to deal with growing political disenchantment in Britain here.

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