New data from the European Social Survey shows that while the British public value democracy many feel the UK government is failing to live up to its democratic ideals. Sarah Butt explores the key findings.
In response to the recent alleged “Trojan Horse” plot to radicalise pupils in Birmingham schools, Education Secretary Michael Gove has called for British values including democracy and the rule of law to be placed at the heart of the National Curriculum. But what does living in a liberal democracy actually involve? And how confident are we that democracy in Britain lives up to these ideals? New findings from the European Social Survey (ESS) provide an in-depth look at how well the British public feel democracy in Britain delivers what they think matters most.
Perhaps unsurprisingly the vast majority of people in Britain think that it is important to live in a country that is governed democratically (average importance rating 8.4 out of 10). However, people are more ambivalent about whether Britain is actually democratic (average importance rating 6.6 out of 10). A significant minority of people (26 %) do not rate Britain above five out of 10 on the democracy scale. There is evidence therefore of a democratic deficit.
The ESS reveals that people have high expectations of democracy. The survey asked respondents to rate how important – on a scale from 0 to 10 – they considered a number of different attributes to be for democracy. Most attributes received an average rating of at least eight out of 10 with people believing that democracy, in addition to guaranteeing free and fair elections and protecting civil liberties, should also protect people against poverty and involve citizens in decision-making.