Generational Divide When ‘Doing Politics’ Vanishes on Need to Fix It

By Gerry Stoker, Mark Evans, and Max Halupka. Gerry Stoker is Professor of Governance at University of Southampton and Fellow and Centenary Professor in the Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis at University of Canberra (Twitter). You can read more posts by Gerry Stoker here.


Are younger generations apathetic about politics, combining complacency with self-absorption, and so threatening the future of Australian democracy? One of the strongest findings from decades of research is that what citizens do politically in their early years tends to set the trend for their engagement with politics in the future. So, it matters that we understand how younger generations are engaging with democratic politics by comparison with older generations.

The findings of our survey work and analysis challenge negative stereotypes and give grounds for optimism. They show that within the younger generations are citizens with the enthusiasm and capacity to change Australian politics.

Younger generations are often defined as the problem. The Lowy Institute, drawing on its own survey work, concluded in a recent article that “the current generation of 18-29-or-so-year-olds … are not particularly interested in democracy”. It argued that:

… young Australians value their democracy less than their counterparts in Indonesia (an emerging democracy), India (a newer democracy than ours) and Fiji (not a democracy at all).

But are younger citizens uninterested in democracy? Are they switched off by politics more than other generations? We think not.

Why do generations matter?

The idea of a generation or cohort of people born around the same time is an important one in social inquiry. Cohorts matter because they are potential drivers of change in society.

The mix of continuity or change from previous generations is shaped by differences in education, peer group socialisation and unique historical experience. So society reproduces itself, but the result is likely to be a mix of stability and innovation as each generation’s experiences come into play.

We focus on four generations of Australian citizens: those born between 1925-45 – the Builders – reflecting their role in rebuilding Australia after the second world war; the Baby Boomers born between 1946-64 who are seen as having driven social change from the late-1960s onwards; Generation X (from 1965-79) and Generation Y (1980-94). These last two are of particular interest as they mostly came of voting age in the 21st century.

Ways of doing politics are many

Our survey work underpins the “Power of 1 Voice” exhibition at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House. Conducted by Ipsos, the survey was designed to capture a representative sample from each of the four Australian generations that we were interested in.

The first thing it tells us is that the great divide is not between engaged older generations and apathetic younger generations. In practice, both do politics, though with varying levels of enthusiasm. However, what is clear is that both do politics differently.

We asked how our respondents engaged with politics. We divided the answers into those that reflected more traditional forms of doing politics and those we labelled more contemporary.

Traditional forms included taking an active role in the community; joining a political party; presenting views to an elected representative; attending a demonstration; standing for office; taking an active part in a lobby or campaign; boycotting products for political or other value-based reasons; and the ubiquitous signing of a petition.

Contemporary forms tend to reflect the options available online. These included using social media; contributing to blogs; getting involved in an E-campaign; joining an online advocacy group; and engaging in crowd-sourced funding for a cause.

The results, presented here, show that different generations are doing their politics differently.

There is not a straight dichotomy between older generations doing everything traditionally and younger generations doing everything in a contemporary style. However, the overall pattern is very clear. The older generations do more through conventional forms of political engagement; the younger generations do more through contemporary forms.

In short, it is not that young people do not participate in politics. Rather, they participate differently through different channels.

Perceptions of effectiveness affect participation

So far all that Tables 1 and 2 tell us is that younger citizens are more comfortable with newer technology and so it’s no surprise they use it more. We did a bit more analysis to explore why younger citizens might do their politics differently. The answer is that they think that doing it that way is more effective.

It’s not a question of ease of access alone; there is a view that politics online achieves more among younger generations.

All generations judge traditional tools as effective to a degree, but older generations are stronger in their backing of traditional tools than younger generations. Younger citizens are more convinced by the efficacy of online tools. They are convinced that they have more impact that way.

That in turn suggests that these new online forms are not a passing fad, but likely to grow in significance if younger generations remain convinced that they can make a difference through online activism.

Thinking our way to a better politics

So far we have emphasised the differences between generations. But when it comes to thinking about how to reform the political system, there is a remarkable conformity across generations.

All generations think that contemporary politics is in trouble. A majority of all generations admire democratic politics for the stability and benefits it delivers and the opportunity it affords to hold politicians to account to ensure their performance in meeting citizens’ needs.

Equally, a majority of all generations’ fears about the practice of democracy coalesce around ideas that too much power is concentrated in the hands of big business and the media. Consequently, politicians too easily break the promises they have made.

The two most supported reform options can be seen as a response to this observation. The first is focused on the idea of giving citizens more influence and parties less. This might involve placing caps on political advertising and donations, more free votes in parliament, the opportunity to go for “none of the above” when voting, the right to recall MPs and the greater use of online plebiscites to give voters a chance to express their views directly.

The second option goes along with much of that agenda but is distinctive in its support for greater local decision-making. It is noteworthy that a majority of citizens appear to favour a mix of reforms combining mechanisms to free and open up representative politics with an opportunity for more direct intervention by citizens themselves.


What reforms would you make to the current system, by generation.
Authors, Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis, Author provided

Negative stereotyping of younger generations as apathetic, apolitical and disengaged is mad, bad and dangerous for the health of Australian democracy. Our evidence suggests that young Australians passionately believe in democratic values, possess strong political views and are actively engaged in contemporary forms of participation. They simply do not like the current politics on offer through traditional forms of participation.

The message to mainstream political institutions and parties is clear. A new politics is required to win the hearts and minds of young Australians to ensure that their democratic energies nurture and enhance Australian democracy. This different politics needs to be more participatory, open, local and digital.

It’s probably true to say that each generation has a tendency to bemoan the failings of the one that follows it. But, in our view, it is evident that politicians accuse younger voters of apathy to divert attention from their own behaviour. What they fail to see is that Australians see politicians as the source of the present crisis.


This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Two Polarities of Anti-Politics: why trying to be friends with both Ukip and Green supporters won’t work for the mainstream parties

Diptic

Diptic

By Will Jennings and Gerry Stoker. Will Jennings is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at University of Southampton (Academia.edu, Twitter) and Gerry Stoker is Professor of Governance at University of Southampton (Twitter). You can read more posts by Will Jennings here and more posts by Gerry Stoker here.


There is a polarity at the heart of British politics that is triggered by anti-politics. Both Ukip and Green supporters share a deep sense of disillusionment with the political class and functioning of British democracy. In almost every other respect, though, their grievances with what is on offer from the political mainstream diverge – leading to polarities that require both Labour and the Conservatives to defend against an attack from both their left and right flanks.

The mainstream parties recognise the threat but are in much more of a bind when it comes to how to respond than they understand. First the political disenchantment at the heart of Ukip and Green support means that their voters have stopped listening to mainstream parties to some degree and second the polarity of Green and Ukip positions means that if mainstream parties try to appease one set of voters they run the risk of simply driving others away from them.

As part of our ongoing investigation into the causes and impacts of political disaffection, we have undertaken a systematic comparison of the determinants of Ukip and Green Party support, based on the British Election Study’s Continuous Monitoring Survey (2009-13) and Internet Panel Study (2014). Full details of our analyses can be found here (the Ukip analyses replicate earlier work reported here).

The results across both periods – which start well before the height of the Ukip and Green surges – are striking. Distrust of politicians is almost as big a factor for Greens as it is for Ukip supporters (it is interesting that this effect is slightly weaker for 2014 as the Greens have picked up more popular support). The odds of someone intending to vote Green or Ukip are up to two and a half times higher (and at a minimum 50% higher) if they express distrust in politicians. People who intend to vote for UKIP and the Greens are also more dissatisfied with British democracy, dislike both David Cameron and Ed Miliband, and more likely to agree that “politicians don’t care what people like me think”. Interestingly, Greens are more likely to accept the view that “it is difficult to understand government and politics”, whereas Ukippers disagree – for them politics is not as complicated as is made out. Even controlling for the demographic and attitudinal factors identified in the popular and widely accepted Ford and Goodwin thesis, political distrust and disaffection is a major driver of support for the Greens and UKIP.

The idea that Ukip or the Greens represent a threat is not news to the political parties. Labour’s big data election analyst Ian Warren long since identified the Greens as key to understanding the distinctive geography of the new British politics. And the Tories plainly see Ukip as a major concern. But the standard mainstream party response is to focus on policy red meat that both parties should throw Ukip supporters to win them back. Disaffection with politics means this strategy may not work because those voters are less trusting of politics and so less likely, anyway, to believe the policy crackdowns and inducements they are offered. But appeasing Ukip has in turn created space for the rise of the Greens – though it remains to be seen to what extent their gains in the polls translate into votes on Election Day.

Our old politics is struggling to cope with a new world of polar opposites. While they may be disaffected and share distrust in politics and politicians, the attitudes of Ukip and Green supporters differ in important ways. Ukip voters are more likely to be male, aged 55 and over, and read right-wing tabloids. Greens are more likely to be female, younger, and not tabloid readers. Ukippers want to leave the EU are worried about immigration, and tend to be of the view that “ordinary people do not get their fair share”. They also are more likely to think that equal opportunities for ethnic minorities and gays and lesbians have gone too far. Greens on the other hand are pro-EU, more likely to express positive attitudes on immigration, believe that government should be concerned about inequality, and disagree that “too many people rely on government handouts”. They also strongly disagree that environmental protection has gone too far. In contrast to Greens, Ukip supporters tend to be less supportive of redistribution or government intervention, but still care about ordinary people getting a fair deal. They may be hacked off about the economic status quo, but Ukip supporters are not necessarily natural bedfellows for Labour’s brand of redistributive social democracy.

These results show that the Left behind thesis that the demographic of Ukip supporters means they are natural Labour voters has perhaps been overplayed – the set of policy attitudes that they express would be just at home in the “new working class” identified by Ivor Crewe in Thatcher’s heyday. These people once may have voted for Labour and Tony Blair – in the guise of “Mondeo Man” – but their policy and cultural attitudes are distinctive and not social democratic in any way. By trying to placate voters’ concerns about immigration and the EU, parties may well have driven voters into the arms of the Greens – who are the polar opposite to Ukip supporters on crucial cultural and policy attitudes.

Further Greens and UKIP supporters are not “insurgents” in any normal sense of the word (they are unarmed as far as we know!). They have a clear set of ideological dispositions and policy preferences that are not being met by the political parties or within the political system as it currently stands. That those preferences are at polar opposites highlights the impossibility for both Labour and Conservatives of mollifying both sides. Their impact on rising support for the new forces in British politics simply highlights the lack of discussion about the underlying attitudinal cleavages that are giving rise to these disparate political movements and the extent to which they are reshaping the political map.

This research is funded under the ESRC research award ‘Popular Understandings of Politics in Britain, 1937-2014’ (Nick Clarke, Gerry Stoker, Will Jennings and Jonathan Moss). See further details here.

PAIR 50th Anniversary Lecture on April 22nd: ‘Cops, Warriors and Revisionist Just War Theory’

Professor Chris Brown, London School of Economics

Wednesday 22nd April 6-7.30pm (58/1067, followed by wine reception).

Abstract: The English common law tradition distinguishes between the role of the police constable and the soldier; the former is an independent legal official, personally liable for his/her actions, while the latter is team player, acting under orders, subject only to the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC).  Recently both of these ideal types have come under threat. The militarisation of the police (‘warrior cops’) is a much commented upon phenomenon; less attention has been give to the rise of the ‘Cop Warrior’, where civilian standards of legal and moral responsibility are applied to soldiers in combat zones. Unlike the rise of the Warrior Cop, which happened in response to changing circumstances, the rise of the Cop Warrior is partly the product of shifts that have been defended in philosophical terms and promoted by revisionist just war theorists. These theorists understand war in terms of individual responsibility, subsuming the LOAC under general International Human Rights Law. This is a retrograde step; it loses contact with realities of warfare, and by rejecting the moral equivalence of combatants validates Carl Schmitt’s critique of just war thinking as encouraging a Manichean world-view.

Workshop: Developments in Deliberative Democracy

By John Boswell, Lecturer in Politics at the University of Southampton (Academia.edu, @Boswell_JC). You can find more posts by John Boswell here.


We are delighted to present an international workshop on new directions and developments in deliberative democratic theory and research.  This half-day event brings together two high-profile academics from the world of deliberative democracy: John Dryzek (Canberra) and John Gastil (Penn State). The first session, provocatively titled ‘One Deliberative Process to Rule Them All’, will be led by John Gastil who will reflect on his ongoing research on the Citizen Initiative Review process in Oregon. The second session ‘Deliberative Democracy and the Agents of Global Justice’ will be led by John Dryzek. The workshop will be followed by a short reception.

The workshop is a partnership between the Centre for Citizenship. Globalisation and Governance (C2G2), Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) and PDD Specialist Group.

Key details

Where: The Boardroom, the University of Westminster

When: 1-6 pm Saturday, March 28

How: Attendance is free but you must register in advance. To do so, click here.

PAIR 50th Anniversary Lecture on February 18th: ‘Life in an Age of Theocracy on the March’

Ronnie Beiner, Professor of Political Science, University of Toronto

Wednesday 18th February 6-7.30pm (58/1067, followed by wine reception).

Abstract: Human history is full of surprises. In 1989, one had decent reason to believe that the age of totalitarian ideologies was definitively over (or at least that it would be banished for many generations). Who would have expected a new totalitarian ideology to be a significant global player so soon? And who on earth would have predicted that ancient theocracy of all things would come to define the core of this new ideology? The purpose of this lecture is to sketch an account of what it means to be normatively committed to a secularist vision of social and political order, against the backdrop of a virtually relentless cascade of bad news associated with the challenges posed by toxic versions of theocracy.

PAIR 50th Anniversary Lecture (Tonight, 6pm): ‘Sovereignty of the People? Public Opinion and Constitutional Change in Britain’

By Rosie Campbell, Reader in Politics, Birkbeck University of London.

Wednesday 11th February 6-7.30pm (02 / 1089, followed by wine reception).

Abstract: In this presentation I will explore how the public understands political representation using illustrative examples from surveys of public opinion. Contemporary elite and academic discourse often problematizes the descriptive and substantive representation of citizens through the lens of gender and ethnicity. For example, there are multiple surveys that have evaluated whether there is a public appetite for measures to improve the descriptive representation of women. However, there is also a resurgent interest in social class and regional/local identities that provides a further challenge to the current political class’s claims to be ‘representatives’ of the people. How the sovereignty of the people should be expressed through the collective voice of MPs in parliament has been contested at least since Burke made his famous speech to the Electors at Bristol; MPs must negotiate where to situate themselves between the two poles of political representation (centre and periphery) and choose to act as either delegates or trustees. These issues are increasingly salient in the context of a fragmenting party system where there is mounting pressure on MPs to perform their representative role by focusing more of their attention on the interests of their constituency. I will use surveys of public opinion to explore how these tensions are ‘voiced’ by the people.

What Is Going on in Argentina with President Fernandez de Kirchner?

By Pia Riggirozzi. Pia Riggirozzi is Associate Professor in Global Politics at University of Southampton (@PRiggirozziAcademia.edu). You can find more posts by Pia here.


[Cross-posted at The Conversation.]

Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has announced plans to dissolve her country’s intelligence services. President Fernandez de Kirchner’s move comes after the controversial death of a prosecutor, Alberto Nisman, who had accused her of attempting to cover up Iran’s role in the country’s deadliest ever terrorist attack: the bombing of the AMIA (the Argentine Jewish Mutual Aid Society) in Buenos Aires in 1994, which killed 85 people.

How did things get to this point, and how did Fernandez de Kirchner get into such terrible legal turmoil?

Cristina de Kirchner and Héctor Timerman. EPA/Jason Szenes

Muddy waters

Nisman had allegedly been investigating the AMIA bombing for over a decade. He finally brought things to a head in mid-January 2015, when he suddenly brought an indictment against Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, for their suspected involvement in the cover-up.

Nisman was then found dead in his apartment on January 18 2015, just four days after serving the indictment and hours before a judicial inquiry was set to begin. His death was declared “suspicious” despite the fact that it seemed like a suicide – and the investigation into it has now turned up evidence he may have been planning to arrest Fernandez de Kirchner herself.

Nisman’s allegations about the Iranian connection must be seen in a wider context. There has been a marked shift in Argentina’s policy towards Iran since 2010, mainly led by Timerman, towards trade and diplomatic relations.

At the same time, Iran has been trying to raise its profile in Latin America in general as it looks for ways to ease the pain of Western sanctions. Tehran has forged close ties with leftist governments in Venezuela and Bolivia, and has been seeking trade agreements with Brazil for food imports.

While the shift to Iran, and the lack of judicial progress in the case of international terrorism striking the country still needs to be accounted for, the death of Nisman and the ensuing political chaos has raised profound concerns about the state of Argentina’s democracy.

Alberto Nisman. EPA/Cezaro de Luca

Nisman’s case against Fernandez de Kirchner and Timerman was dismissed on February 2. It relied heavily on transcripts of wiretapped conversations between Argentine negotiators and Iranian officials, and these recorded conversations – provided by the intelligence services – were found to be inconclusive and the case lacking in substantive evidence.

There are suspicions about whether this evidence was all it seemed, and worries that the intelligence service was up to its old tricks once again – muddying the waters of a highly sensitive case, or even supporting sinister plans to destabilise the government.

But those misgivings themselves show that whatever Fernandez de Kirchner’s real reason for doing it, the intelligence overhaul was undeniably long overdue.

Toxic institutions

During Argentina’s so-called Dirty War in the 1970s and 80s, the intelligence services were dominated by the military, and acted as its instrument in the persecution of opposition leaders and social activists.

After democratisation began in 1983, the government of Raul Alfonsin was mainly focused on reforming two main enforcing agencies: the armed forces and the police. The intelligence services were left for later, despite the fact the secret services were still rampantly active, engaging in political disappearances and the extortion of prominent businessmen to “make up” for the dwindling demand for their services.

In part, this was just one of many difficulties facing a fledgling democracy that was struggling to achieve stability and self-confidence. But the intelligence services were also protected by the fact that even democratic governments found them very politically useful.

Taken at face value, then, Fernandez de Kirchner has done the right thing. Dismantling the intelligence services was necessary, a debt of democratisation in Argentina. And while passing the reform will require parliamentary endorsement, Kirchner’s Front for Victory party controls 39 of the 72 seats in the Senate and 130 of the 257 seats in the lower house, the changes will probably enjoy a smooth ride through both chambers.

But whether Fernandez de Kirchner’s newfound zeal for reform will do anything for the health of Argentina’s democracy is another question entirely.

For democracy’s sake

Instead of opening up engagement with the opposition, Fernandez de Kirchner’s swift intervention has become a piece of partisan grandstanding, and has all but trivialised the judicial process Nisman began.

It has also done nothing to dismiss suspicions about the president’s “real reasons” for dismantling the intelligence service, while sending party politics into a frenzied back-and-forth of accusations and denunciation.

The government stands accused of using Nisman’s case for partisan ends, dodging a major investigation into the president in an election year; it in turn accuses the opposition of not wanting to give up illicit paid access to political information from spooks.

Of course, weak institutions and impunity for the powerful are not the fruits of some latter-day Kirchnerista invention; they are long-established facts of Argentine political life. Still, the current government has done a lot to deepen distrust of the state among its people.

To be sure, the sensation around the death of Nisman made it clear just how badly Argentina’s intelligence system needed reform, and created the context to finally get the job done. But for the sake of democracy, this must not be allowed to descend into a party-political brawl – and certainly not at such a sensitive time, as a two-term-limited president nears the end of her tenure.