More than half of British voters now unhappy with democratic system, new research reveals

Posted On: 
29th January 2020

More than half of the British public are unhappy with the way democracy is working, new research has found.

The researchers found that 'dissatisfaction with democracy has risen over time' around the world.

A report by Cambridge University's Centre for the Future of Democracy found that three in five people (60.3%) were dissatisfied with the functioning of the democratic system as 2019 - a year dominated by Parliamentary wrangling over Brexit - came to a close.

That represented the highest level of dissatisfaction since the 1970s, when the Labour government struggled to contain widespread strikes during the "winter of discontent".

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By contrast, 2005 saw a record low level of dissatisfaction, with just 32.8% of people unhappy with the way democracy was working as Tony Blair's second term as Prime Minister came to a close.

The researchers found that disatisfaction with British politics grew steadily between 2005 and 2019, an era that has seen the financial crisis, the MPs' expenses scandal and deep division over Britain's EU exit.

The shift came amid what researchers said was a worldwide trend of rising distrust in democratic politics, with dissatisfaction in democracy globally climbing from 47.9% in the 1990s to 57.5% per cent last year.

That figure - based on a study of more than four million people across 3,500 surveys - represented the highest ever level of dissatisfaction with the democratic system.

"Across the globe, democracy is in a state of malaise," report author Dr Roberto Foa said.

He added: "We find that dissatisfaction with democracy has risen over time and is reaching an all-time global high, in particular in developed countries."

The United States has also suffered a "dramatic and unexpected" decline to below 50% satisfaction - down from around 75% between 1995 and 2005, the study found.

Dr Foa added: "Our findings suggest that citizens are rational in their view of political institutions, and update their assessment in response to what they observe. If confidence in democracy has been slipping it is because democratic institutions have been seen failing to address some of the major crises of our era... To restore democratic legitimacy that must change."