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Tom Burgess
Features Writer
8:49 AM 30th July 2020
Opinion

Why Do We Not Trust Democracy?

A pro-democracy demonstration. Photo by Markus Spiske
A pro-democracy demonstration. Photo by Markus Spiske
In the UK and the US, two of the most renowned democracies in the world, the actual opinion of the public on political institutions is damning.

The Democracy Perception Index demonstrated in 2019 that only 49% of UK citizens see the UK as being democratic and only 46% in the US. This highlights a growing disillusionment from the institutions of democracy.

In the US all three branches of power have low approval ratings: Trump currently has an approval rating of 38%, Congress at 25% and the Supreme Court is faring best with 54%, according to Gallup.

In the UK, YouGov carried a survey out that showed only 32% of the public approved of the government’s performance in June. Such low ratings across the board surely prompts the question of why democracy is not working as well as it should. These statistics show some severe disapproval and voter turnouts show just how many feel that their voices are not heard in the current systems. The recent ‘Russian Report’ went further to show that in the UK the disapproval is more than warranted.

What the ‘Russian Report’ showed was that there is a worrying lack of concern about maintaining integrity in our political and electoral systems. There is no body in government that is concerned with maintaining the values that the government and people all subscribe to. While approval ratings may be low, the people on the streets would, on the whole, agree with the principles of democracy. The disconnect appears in how they are carried out in Parliament. The Electoral Commission is what we have to defend our democracy and it is a small parliamentary body- not what is needed to ‘tackle a major hostile state threat to our democracy’. The report states that this responsibility should be a ‘ministerial priority’.

In a recent meeting of the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs, Chloe Smith the Minister of State for the Cabinet Office stated that changing electoral laws was not a priority for this government. In the US, breaching electoral laws can result in prison time and yet in the UK the largest fine that can be incurred is £20,000 - compare that to the price which David Cameron charges for his speeches at £120,000.

Why is the government so unconcerned in Russian interference in our elections? It is almost as if they don’t care that the public trust in government is rapidly fading. This is not an issue with the Conservative party as Labour haven’t championed change either.

The problem lies in the fact that both of the largest political parties benefit from the broken system they exist in. The public has lost trust in politicians and it is hard to see a way in which it can be regained. A key way that this can be done is preventing such large donations and sponsors of political parties in both the US and UK- the lobbying industry breeds mistrust in a public that believes their voices won’t matter in comparison to big corporations. This will not be an easy to change to implement but that doesn’t mean that it is not right or worth discussing.