Poll: Nearly two thirds of Brits believe politics is “broken” and in need of “radical change”

Nearly two thirds of the British public (59%) believes that “the old way of doing politics no longer works” and “radical change” is needed, according to polling by YouGov for Unlock Democracy[1]. Only a small minority (3%) thought that the current political system works well and needs no improvement.

The polling comes amidst a chaotic period for the government. The Prime Minister, Theresa May, has dealt with numerous ministerial resignations in recent weeks, as well as ongoing threats of a vote of no-confidence and a leadership challenge from the European Research Group over her Brexit deal.

The picture painted by the polling results show a British public that has lost faith in the “old way of doing politics” and is pushing back against the political status quo. The data suggests there is a strong challenge against the overly centralised British state and the UK’s uncodified, or ‘unwritten’, constitution which underpins it.

65% of the public agreed that Britain needs a written constitution providing “clear legal rules within which government ministers and civil servants are forced to act”. That rose to 73% amongst Leave voters, and 69% amongst Remain voters. The UK counts itself in a small club of just three states, alongside Israel and New Zealand, which have uncodified constitutions [2].

The assumption often presides that change in British politics is underpinned by slow and incremental evolution. But the data suggests there is an appetite amongst the public for change that is more seismic in nature, and addresses the very foundations of the British state.

72% of the public also agreed that local communities should have more of a say over what happens to them. With the UK being one of the most centralised developed countries, this could signal a desire for greater meaningful devolution - not just of responsibilities, but also of power.

Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy:

“The government likes to thump its chest about the UK’s place in the world post-Brexit, but is sticking its head in the sand over what to do at home. It has nothing to say of how Brexit will give more power to people and communities, despite the rallying cry that drove the referendum vote being to ‘take back control’.

“Brexit should be a moment of political renewal - and it’s one we’re in desperate need of. The polling data shows how sick and tired the public are with the old way of doing politics, and there’s a clear appetite for radical change.

“If we’re tearing up the rulebook for how we do things abroad, then we should also tear up the rulebook for how we do things at home - or, as 65% of the British public would like - create a new rulebook altogether in the form of a written constitution.

“The vote to leave was as much a demand put power back into the hands of communities across the country, as it was a call to change our relationship with the EU. That has been lost on the government and politicians, who have become myopic in their vision for the UK. It is those with the money to buy influence and a seat at the table who are being heard, not the communities, towns and cities across this country. To fix politics it’s clear we need a democratic revolution that puts power in the hands of people”


Contact: For more information or to organise an interview / extended comment please contact press@unlockdemocracy.org.uk / 07983 280 187.

Notes to Editors

[1] Polling of representative sample of 1,634 GB adults by YouGov between 15th - 16th November 2018. The full data set is on YouGov’s website here.

[2] See Professor Vernon Bogdanor’s report for the Constitution Society (2018), ‘Brexit and our Unprotected Constitution’ (p37)

About Unlock Democracy

Unlock Democracy believes politics must work for everyone because currently the rules of democracy aren’t fair. More information about us here.

Launched this week, Unlock Democracy’s New Politics Rules campaign aims to build a UK-wide movement for a new written constitution for the UK. This would replace the Westminster system which is underpinned by unwritten rules and gentlemen's’ agreements.