Little interest in Big Society

Most people in Britain are unwilling to get involved in their community despite wanting to engage more with local issues, research suggests. Only one in ten definitely intended to do voluntary work in the next two years, Hansard Society’s post-election poll of 1,200 people found. While interest in politics was up, civic participation levels – key to the Big Society – were not. It said the Big Society must avoid “political associations” to succeed. 
David Cameron has described his flagship idea, which seeks to mobilise community-led initiatives in a range of areas, as his “mission” amid criticism that it is too vague and merely an attempt to paper over damaging cuts in public services. The Hansard Society’s findings come from its annual Audit of Political Engagement, for which nearly 1,200 people in England, Scotland and Wales were interviewed.

The organisation, which seeks to encourage public involvement in politics, asked people how their attitudes to political involvement had changed since last May’s election and what their future intentions were. It found that interest in politics and knowledge of political events had both increased since last May, with levels of interest hitting a record 58%. However, this was not matched by an equivalent increase in political engagement beyond voting.

While 69% of people said they were interested in how things worked in their local area and 51% felt getting involved could make a difference, only one in 10 said they were certain to do so in the next two years. Those most likely to put themselves forward were parents aged under 45 and from a high-income group. People were more likely to volunteer if they “felt strongly” about an issue, believed it was directly “relevant” to them and if it “affected” their street.

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