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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Research project: Popular understandings of politics in Britain, 1937-2014

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This project runs from October 2014 to March 2016. Dr Nick Clarke is the Principle Investigator and it is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Other team members include Professors Gerry Stoker and Will Jennings from Politics and International Relations at the University of Southampton. In a context of declining voter turnout, party membership, and trust in politicians across much of the world, the overall aim of the study is to understand better what and how British citizens have thought about formal politics since the late 1930s (when relevant datasets begin). This overall aim translates into three objectives: 1) to establish the range of popular understandings of politics among British citizens; 2) to establish changes in prominence of certain popular understandings over time; and 3) to suggest causes for these changes. There are three interconnected stages of research. First, a contextual review of relevant and existing survey data is being used to establish broad trends, fluctuations, and cycles of public opinion regarding formal politics. Sources being consulted include National Opinion Poll results, Gallup poll results, and Ipsos-MORI results. Second, we are analysing qualitative data found in the Mass Observation Archive. On eight occasions between 1945 and 2010, hundreds of Mass-Observation panellists were asked to write about politicians, elections, and political parties. Third, findings from the historical research – stages 1 and 2 – are being integrated with relevant contemporary research including work involving the ESRC and the Hansard Society seeking to audit political engagement in twenty-first century Britain.

Associated research themes

Popular Understandings of Politics in Britain, 1937-2014 website

Related research groups

Economy, Society and Governance
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