I am investigating the decline of Parliamentary political engagement in the UK since 2004, a trend documented in the Hansard Society’s annual Audit[s] of Political Engagement. Public attitudes to the political process have “hardened” in recent years; for example the number of people certain that they will vote in a national election has dropped to an all-time low of 48%. My particular interest is in the impact of the work of MPs and peers in the Westminster Parliament, on public opinion; I want to be clearer about the links between political engagement and what Parliament does.
In my research proposal to this consultation, I suggested four questions that the Domain Dark Archive might address:
One: could we identify websites addressing some or all of the core indicators of political engagement (ie, knowledge and interest, action and participation, and efficacy and satisfaction)?
Two: could comparison searches be done to give parliamentarians an insight into changing public perceptions of the parliamentary process?
Three: can social media forums used by parliamentarians be identified in a time-sensitive way that highlights political themes commented on from one year to the next?
And four: could we examine the House of Lords blog, say, to analyse how politicians – peers in this case – engaged with the spontaneous, seldom thought-through but increasingly influential eruptions of public opinion expressed in tweets and blogs?
Given the limited amount of time we will have with the dataset this spring, I plan to focus on the last two questions, using the House of Lords as a case study not least because the Lords was the first parliamentary chamber in the world to set up a bipartisan blog (in 2008). Many peers comment on other blogs as well, and it will be interesting to chart how a discrete group of peers and public have interacted online during a period of decline in so-called political engagement. Between now and the spring I will interview peers with an interest in social media in order to identify why they got involved in blogging in the first place. This research will give me relevant key words and phrases to submit to the DDA consultation for search and analysis.
Dr Carole Taylor BSc, MA, PhD