Dr. Matt Henn Opinion Polls and Volatile Electorates: Problems and Issues in Polling European Societies A Generation Apart? Youth and Political Participation in Britain Committed Scepticism or Engaged Cynicism? Young People and Contemporary Politics' Lowering The Age of Assent: Youth and Politics in Britain Young People and Politics: A Pilot Study of Opinion in Nottinghamshire 1998 Young People and Citizenship: A Study of Opinion in Nottinghamshire 1999 Political Activity and Youth Alienation and Youth The 'New' Rhetoric of New Labour in Comparative Perspective: A Three-Country Discourse Analysis Polls, Politics and Perestroika: The Emergence of Political Opinion Polling in Central and Eastern Europe Polls and the Political Process: The Use of Opinion Polls by Political Parties and Mass Media Organizations in European Post-Communist Societies Opinion Polling in Central and Eastern Europe Under Communism Opinion Polls, Political Elites And Party Competition In Postcommunist Bulgaria Labour Renewal Under Blair? A Local Membership Study Back to top Opinion Polls and Volatile Electorates: Problems and Issues in Polling European Societies, Ashgate, London, 1998. 258 pages. ISBN 1 84014 416 5. This book, Opinion Polls and Volatile Electorates, presents a comparative overview of the development of opinion polling in late-capitalist and post-communist societies. The author considers two related issues to help the readers understand the role of polls in political affairs, and the prospects for polling in the future.
Firstly, it is argued that there are certain tendencies unfolding in both late-capitalist and post-communist societies (which the author terms Complex Politics) which make polling an increasingly difficult activity. These processes affect the ability of polls to measure public opinion effectively, and to contribute positively to political democratisation. Secondly, the book examines whether polls extend or inhibit democratic processes. The long-standing debate between advocates and critics of polls is considered and applied to both late-capitalist and post-communist societies. It is concluded that while opinion polls may in certain ways improve democratic practises, they can also be used by powerful special interest groups to frustrate these aims. Back to top 'A Generation Apart? Youth and Political Participation in Britain', The British Journal of Politics and International Relations (forthcoming 2002).
Conventional wisdom holds that young people in Britain are alienated from politics, with some claiming that this reflects a wider crisis of legitimacy that should be met by initiatives to increase citizenship. This article addresses these areas, presenting both panel survey and focus group data from first-time voters. It concludes that, contrary to the findings from many predominantly quantitative studies of political participation, young people are interested in political matters, and do support the democratic process. However they feel a sense of anti-climax having voted for the first time, and are critical of those who have been elected to positions of political power. If they are a generation apart, this is less to do with apathy, and more to do with their engaged scepticism about 'formal' politics in Britain. Back to top 'Committed Scepticism or Engaged Cynicism? Young People and Contemporary Politics' (with D.
Wring and M. Weinstein), in J. Fisher et al (eds. ) British Elections and Parties Review: 9, London: Frank Cass, 1999. ISBN 0714650153. Introduction Growing concern about public disaffection with the British political process and its institutions has manifested itself in a number of ways.
Whilst some have addressed the apparent decline in electoral participation, others have sought to assess and understand the motivations and interests of specific groups within the population such as women and those belonging to ethnic minorities. Recently, attention has also begun to focus on young people's engagement with the political process. This concern was borne out by a campaign launched in the run-up to the 1997 General Election. Backed by a cross-party alliance, the music industry initiative Rock the Vote urged young people to make sure they were entered on the electoral register so that they might exercise their democratic rights. Symbolically the campaign's May 1996 launch event took place at the prestigious Ministry of Sound club in London's West End.
In promoting itself Rock the Vote attempted to reinforce the idea that, collectively, the youth vote could play a potentially important role in British politics. Back to top 'Lowering The Age of Assent: Youth and Politics in Britain' (with D. Wring and M. Weinstein), in Fabian Review, Vol. 110, 4, 1998. Introduction During the 1997 general election the politicians got plenty of criticism from one another, the public and the media.
But in this fray one section of the electorate also found themselves on the receiving end of some scorn. Independent columnist Polly Toynbee labelled them 'airheads' and 'know-nothings' whilst The Times' Nigella Lawson argued they 'should be treated with contempt'. The object of this negativity? Disaffected youth. And these were just the 'liberal' commentators! Back to top 'Young People and Politics: A Pilot Study of Opinion in Nottinghamshire' (with M. Weinstein and D. Wring), Nottinghamshire County Council, December 1998.
This paper, based on an exploratory survey of youth opinion in Nottinghamshire, is an attempt to better understand the attitudes, concerns and orientation of young people in respect of political institutions as well as the more general processes of politics. The results have been drawn from a sample of 1, 597 young people randomly selected from across the eight local authority districts in the county via the electoral register. Our analysis tends to refute the conventional media wisdom that suggests the young are apolitical and relatively apathetic. The responses indicate that though prospective first time voters appear sceptical about established political actors, that is the parties and their elected representatives, they also profess their commitment to the democratic process. It would appear that young people's disengagement from politics stems not through disinterest but alienation from the organisation and conduct of the political system. Back to top 'Young People and Citizenship: A Study of Opinion in Nottinghamshire' (with M.
Weinstein and D. Wring), Nottinghamshire County Council, October 1999. This report addresses the issue of political engagement in relation to young people, and contributes to the theoretical understanding of political participation in Britain. In addition, we review the development of new initiatives designed to make the decision-making system more sensitive to youth concerns and more flexible to encourage youth participation in democratic affairs. It is claimed that together, these will help to embed the notion that young people have a stake in society and a role to play as full citizens. The report presents the results of the second stage of a longitudinal project commissioned by Nottinghamshire County Council.
The results are based upon an analysis of six focus groups, together with a regional panel survey of 425 randomly selected young people who have only limited experience of formal politics. It aims to reveal the level of engagement that youth have with formal politics in Britain. Specifically, the research addresses whether or not there is a 'crisis of legitimacy' in terms of their attitudes towards politics. Analysis of the data tends to refute conventional wisdom that suggests that young people are apolitical and relatively apathetic.
Instead, the findings signal quite clearly that whilst the first-time voters in our study are sceptical of political institutions, professional politicians and political parties, they are nonetheless committed to the democratic process. If they do show signs of disengagement from formal politics in Britain, then this is more to do with their perceptions of how politics is conducted and organised, than with disinterest. Back to top 'The 'New' Rhetoric of New Labour in Comparative Perspective: A Three-Country Discourse Analysis' (with D. Jahn), in West European Politics, Vol. 23 (1), 26-46, 2000. ISSN 0140-2382.
Over the last two decades, social democratic-labour parties (SDLPs) have been confronted by various challenges which have had a dramatic impact upon their ideological orientation. Not least of which, these include emerging challenger parties, as well as the Neo-Liberal discourse of the New Right. In this paper, we compare the ideological positioning of three parties in Sweden, Germany, and particularly in Great Britain. We conclude that the ideological profile of 'New Labour' now largely mirrors those of other SDLPs. The results are based upon a content analysis of the 1994 (Germany and Sweden) and 1997 (Great Britain) election rhetoric in party manifestos and television debates. The analysis centres on the extent to which the three SDLPs refer to the discourses of Socialism, the Welfare State, Neo-Liberalism, and Ecologist.
Back to top 'Polls, Politics and Perestroika: The Emergence of Political Opinion Polling in Central and Eastern Europe', in European Business And Economic Development, Vol. 1 (5), 11-17, 1993. ISSN 0966-8004. In advanced Capitalist Democracies, political opinion polls are usually seen as objective, reliable tools for determining the 'will of the people'. This article presents the results of a survey conducted throughout 1990, of the opinion polling communities in eight (formerly one-party) states of Central and Eastern Europe, and of Bulgaria in 1992. The survey was concerned with monitoring the changing status and role of polling in the context of political democratisation and political restructuring.
The analysis sets out to consider the degree to which polling as an institutional process is dependant upon the political regime in a given state, and also the degree of 'democratisation' which exists there. Back to top 'Polls and the Political Process: The Use of Opinion Polls by Political Parties and Mass Media Organizations in European Post-Communist Societies (1990-95) ', in The Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, Vol. 13 (3), 127-47, 1997. ISSN 1352-3279. Opinion polling occupies a significant role within the political process of most liberal-capitalist societies, where it is used by governments, parties and the mass media alike. This paper examines the extent to which polls are used for the same purposes in the post-communist countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and in particular, for bringing political elites and citizens together.
It argues that these political elites are more concerned with using opinion polls for gaining competitive advantage over their rivals and for reaffirming their political power, than for devolving political power to citizens and improving the general processes of democratization. Back to top 'Opinion Polling in Central and Eastern Europe Under Communism', in Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 33 (2), 229-40, 1998. ISSN 0022-0094. Whilst political opinion polling occupies a well-entrenched position within contemporary capitalist political systems, the same cannot be said for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This paper focuses primarily on the development of political opinion polling in these countries in the period prior to the collapse of communist regimes there at the end of 1989.
Polling was a feature of these communist-led societies, although it was limited in terms of its activities, the scope of issue coverage, and its ability to measure public opinion effectively. The major focus of the discussion concentrates on the methodological issues and problems confronting opinion pollsters in these societies during this time. Back to top 'Opinion Polls, Political Elites And Party Competition In Postcommunist Bulgaria', in The Journal of Communist Studies and Transition Politics, Vol. 17 (3), 52-70, 2001. This article examines the role of opinion polls in East European countries, and assesses the impact that they have had on the general processes of political democratisation there since the collapse of communism. Certainly, opinion polls have taken a high-profile role in political affairs in these countries over the course of the last decade.
Policy-makers, politicians and political parties made much use of polls in the early years of democratic transition, although for various reasons they were received with significant scepticism by each of these users and by citizens alike. This article compares recent research with earlier studies on the use of polls by political elites in countries seeking to consolidate democracy. From recent in-depth interviews conducted with national politicians in Bulgaria, I draw upon a number of examples to examine the ways in which political parties and elites use opinion polls, and their intentions for doing so. Back to top 'Labour Renewal Under Blair? A Local Membership Study', paper for the E POP Panel of the PSA Annual Conference, Belfast, published (with M. Young), in J. Stayer and G.
Stoker (eds. ) Contemporary Political Studies, PSA, Belfast, 1997. ISBN 0952315084. After four successive election defeats and 18 years as parliamentary opposition to the Conservatives, the Labour Party regained governmental power at the UK General Election in 1997. Under the stewardship of Tony Blair, the Party had vigorously pursued a programme for organisational and political change, in an attempt to 'modernise' its values, priorities and image, unify the Party by marginalizing internal dissent, and in so doing, gain a wider appeal and credibility amongst the electorate. At the same time, Blair's project sought to arrest the decline in Party membership, and establish the grass roots infrastructure through which to conduct effective electoral campaigning at the local level to assist in the goal of winning national governmental office.
This chapter examines how local Labour Party members (including those who joined under Tony Blair) responded to the ideological, policy and organisational changes pursued and implemented at the national level under Tony Blair's leadership. Using both quantitative and qualitative research, it focuses on the political values of this grass-roots membership, and the extent to which these resonate with the restructuring of the ideological and policy positions of the national Party leadership. In particular, it seeks to throw light on the nature of 'new' Labour's membership, and whether there is any dissonance between them, the party and its leadership in terms of support for the modernisation programme, perceptions of the organisational changes set in motion at that time, and priorities for any incoming Labour government.