As political leaders from all three parties compete to “give power to the people”, Demos interrogated what it means for people to be powerful. The Power Gap is the opening shot in a debate Demos want to initiate on the distribution of power in British society. It will provide a way of measuring and mapping the disparities in different forms of power across class and geography in the UK. The Power Index will paint a richer picture of who is in control of their own lives and the wider social world in which we live.
The key output from the index is a unique geographical map of power in the UK, assigning power levels to every constituency in the UK. We sent a poster of the power map to every MP. By showing the reality of power inequality to political representatives, we aim to concentrate minds and advance debate on the types of political, economic and social reform needed to close the gap between the powerful and the powerless.
The Power Gap measured a range of factors to produce the first map of power across Britain and reveals the deepest inequality to be between ghettoes of powerless urban people and clusters of powerful people, mostly in southern and rural areas. As the main political parties compete to champion giving power back to people, the research demonstrates the scale of the challenge facing the next Government.
The Power Map Methodology
The Map uses an index of 8 measures of power to rank the ability of people across all 628 British constituencies to control their life and influence society - their 'everyday' power'. It uses a 'composite indicator', bringing the different indicator of citizens' power together into one overall index. The power score for each constituency is the sum of the eight indicators, with a maximum power score of 100. It divides the results into 5 'power leagues' from Very High to Very Low.
The eight power capabilities are grouped thematically as follows:
Personal Control: the capability to shape one's own lifecourse
- Education: the level of academic qualifications achieved among working-age population.
- Occupational status: power in the workplace
- Income: the average household income in a constituency
Resilience: the capability to withstand unexpected shocks and the arbitrary power of others
- Employment: percentage of working age population of constituency who are unemployed
- Freedom from crime: the incidence of violent crime in each constituency
- Health: the incidence of work-limiting illness or disability
Social Influence: proxies for capabilities to shape the social world
- Voter turnout in General Elections
- Marginality of parliamentary seat
One of the most contentious aspects in the construction of composite indicators is the weighting given to the various indicators and categories. To some degree, the choice of weightings in unavoidable normative and political, reflecting value-based judgements on the relative importance of the indicators. For the Power Map's index, all categories are weighted equally, and all indicators are weighted equally within each category. The sum of indicator weights within a category is 1. The sum of category weights is also 1. So, since there are three different categories, each category weight is 0.333.
The first step in the construction of the index is to 'normalise' the data - to rescale the data for each indicator so it can be compared across indicators. This is necessary because the data in the various indicators is of very many different types, from percentages (voter turnout or unemployment rates, for example) to average totals (household income), to aggregated 'scores' (as for education levels and social 'grading' of professions).
The power map uses 2005 constituency boundaries as the most up-to-date data sets use these boundaries. However, the latest review of Westminster constituency boundaries was completed in 2007, and the boundaries will change substantially in England and Wales in the 2010 general election. Thus, it may be necessary to revise the Power Map according to these new constituency boundaries after June 2010.
This project was kindly supported by
A new way to measure power in twenty-first century Britain.