Demos launches new report – The Everyday Democracy IndexSmaller government is not a recipe for making people feel more empowered, according to a new study of 25 European countries to be published by Demos today. This conclusion is based on data from the Everyday Democracy Index, part of ongoing experiment which seeks to examine people’s power over the decisions that affect their everyday lives: within their workplaces, families, and in public services and communities as well as at the ballot box.
The index uses 21 indicators, ranging from children’s empowerment in families, to public engagement in science, to national voter turnout. A website – www.everydaydemocracy.com – will allow people to customize their own version of the index through an interactive map. The index will be launched at Demos in London on 31 January at 5:00 pm, with Timothy Garton Ash of the Guardian.
The report argues there is no evidence that countries with smaller governments produce citizens who feel they have more influence over their everyday lives. In fact, the countries that get the highest overall scores on the EDI, like Sweden and Denmark, also have some of the biggest-spending governments.
The study also finds that perceptions of political influence and perceptions of influence in private life tend to be linked, so that the countries which do the best job of empowering citizens in their local communities, family life, work, and public services also tend to have the healthiest levels of formal political engagement.
Report author Paul Skidmore said:
“Political parties are falling over themselves to be seen as the champions of ‘people power’, but simply reducing the size of government doesn’t seem to be the answer. A more promising solution to restoring people’s faith in politics would be to increase people’s sense of empowerment in their everyday lives. Democracy isn’t just about traipsing to the polling station every couple of years – it’s about people’s power over their daily life choices.”
Early results from the developing index will point to several important findings about everyday democracy in the 25 countries, including:
· A very strong statistical connection between countries' scores on the Everyday Democracy Index and other indicators of national success, such as levels of happiness and life satisfaction.
· How much influence people have at home, at work and in their wider communities seems to be closely related to the health of formal political institutions. Countries with the highest levels of empowerment in informal settings like families and workplaces also tend to be those that have the highest levels of democratic engagement.
· While the UK ranks 9th out of 25 countries, ahead of France and Germany, the countries lower on the list are generally the former dictatorships and communist countries that are new to democracy. There is also a large gap between the UK and the leading democracies in Scandinavia.
1. The Everyday Democracy Index, part of an ongoing experiment in how to measure everyday democracy, is the outcome of a year-long research process. For more information, please see: /projects/theeverydaydemocracyindex/overview
2. The EDI will be launched in London on 31 January from 5:00 – 7:00 pm. The launch event will take place at Demos, 136 Tooley Street, SE1 2TU. Paul Skidmore and Kirsten Bound, the authors, will speak, as will Timothy Garton Ash of the Guardian.