Brexit, Party divisions and climate change – the importance of the public voice
What a time we’re having – the confusion of Brexit, the clear divides within and between the main political parties, the resignations and talk of new political parties emerging from the rubble. Interesting times and an indication of a country that is frustrated and divided. As a member of the general public there is a sense of powerlessness, who is listening to us? How can we make a difference? Does our vote count? The next election is going to give the pollsters one of the biggest challenges yet in predicting and capturing voters behaviour.
The potential emergence of new political parties is exciting and if the public feel there is a new option that will engage, listen and consult with them on a new level – then this might be the biggest potential tool for its success. A political party that involves the public on a level that is currently missing – could this unite our divided voters?
It’s not just current voters who want and need to be heard. The recent climate change protests by school children make it clear that our young are frustrated, want a voice and are passionate and articulate. They may not be old enough to vote, but they soon will be, and they could be game changers. How well are they understood? How can they become more participatory in political research? It’s extraordinary times – many of us of a ‘certain age’ couldn’t imagine being able to take a day off school for a protest, the commitment and support to enable this to happen speaks volumes.
If I am optimistic, I envisage the role of face to face research will (and should) become more essential in understanding and tapping into the psyche of the public. Citizens panels, assemblies, public consultations, focus groups – methods that enable exploration of the whys and wants of the electorate. People (not just of voting age) want to be listened to, they want debate and discussion, they want to be involved and included in our future. Putting a cross on a form or a tick in a box might not cut it anymore.