Research by the University of Sheffield has revealed more than three quarters of people are dissatisfied with political parties and has identified the seven main qualities people want to see in parties today.
ParliamentGathering data through a survey administered by YouGov and three public workshops, research led by Dr Kate Dommett and Dr Luke Temple asked people about their attitudes towards parties, including how people believe parties are behaving now and how they would like to see parties work.
The top words used to describe political parties by workshop participants included ‘unrepresentative’, ‘undemocratic’, ‘self-interested’ and ‘divided’. Seventy-seven per cent of those surveyed said they were fairly or very dissatisfied with parties.
Forty-six per cent of people said parties need major reform, 26 per cent said that reforming parties is pointless and they can’t be made to work, while 25 per cent said parties need minor reform and three per cent said they work well and do not need reform at all.
The report – What People Want to See in Parties Today – can be used by political parties to make changes to bring their party more in line with public desires, promote the ways they already do these things, or challenge people’s ideas and offer an alternative set of benchmarks against which they feel they should be being judged.
The study found that people want:
- Transparency – they want to understand what parties do, how decisions are made and what influence they can have.
- Communication – they want honest and accountable parties that communicate with the people. They want to know when something has gone wrong and want parties to explain and take responsibility when something doesn’t work out as planned.
- Reliability – they want to see parties that outline an agenda and stick to it, enacting their manifesto promises and sticking to pledges. They do not want parties that are self-interested, or that are dogmatic and uncompromising.
- Principles – they want parties that are guided by their principles when making policies or decisions, using these ideas to filter the different voices and influences that can affect the decision made.
- Inclusivity – they want parties to include a range of different voices and ideas. Rather than just listening to members or supporters, people want parties to listen to experts, opponents and the wider public.
- Accessibility – they want a range of ways to engage with parties, but they don’t want parties to entirely open up. Certain activities should continue to be the preserve of members and leaders, but for less intensive activities citizens want a wider range of people to be able to get involved.
- Integrity – they want parties to be honest, ethical and dignified. Rather than focusing on the competition of party politics and the partisan behaviour this can promote, people want parties that have moral codes and principles that underpin how they work.
Dr Kate Dommett, from the University of Sheffield's Department of Politics, said: “As widely disliked organisations seen to be essential to contemporary democracy, parties are often under pressure to reform.'
Read more: Study reveals three quarters of people are dissatisfied with ‘undemocratic’, ‘self-interested’ and ‘divided’ political parties