Introduction: Crisis? What Crisis?
The titles of some recently published books say it all: Why People Don’t Trust Government (1997); Disaffected Democracies (1999); What is it About Government that Americans Dislike? (2001). The ancients would shudder at the very thought: democracy in crisis? Surely not. However, there is a growing consensus that citizens of all democratic political systems — though the criticism tends to be levelled at the usual suspects, the United States and Europe — are becoming progressively more cynical, disillusioned and apathetic.2 Hence, we should not be surprised that people are consciously deciding not to participate in politics.3 Few voters are prepared to turn out for elections (Gray & Caul, 2000) and cast their vote, and even fewer are joining political parties and interest groups (Mair & I. van Biezen, 2001; Putnam, 2000). A report published by the British Labour party in September 2001 announced that it had lost 50,000 members during the previous year. The Conservative party had lost 75,000 since the 1997 General Election. Between the end of 2002 and 2003, membership of the Labour party fell by more than 33,000 to 214,952. The turnout in the 1997 British General Election was 71.4 percent, the lowest since the Second World War, provoking John Curtice and Michael Steed (Butler & Kavanagh, 1997:299) to conclude: ‘It seems clear that the 1997 general election excited less interest than any other in living memory’ …
KeywordsPresidential Election Political Communication Voter Turnout Direct Democracy Local Election
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- 1.Langdon C. Stewardson, ‘The Moral Aspects of the Referendum’, International Journal of Ethics, Vol. 13, 1903: 147. Quoted in Zimmerman, 2001, p. 5.Google Scholar