The UK is mostly considered to be a democracy. This means that it should be a "government of the people, by the people and for the people" (Abraham Lincoln 1863). A key element of democracy is people participating, in a significant way, in the political process and key political decisions made from this. This reflects the idea of government by and for the people. However, recently there has been evidence to suggest that the UK is suffering from a participation crisis; this is an important issue to discuss as participation obviously affects the correct carrying out of democracy, a crucial element of the UK political system. This essay will address reasons as to why the UK may be suffering from a participation crisis - a decrease in election turnouts, membership of parties, and strikes - as well as evidence to suggest it may not be - an increase in demonstrations, popularity of small parties and new social movements. .
Firstly, a decrease in turnout at elections has caused concern as to the level of political participation in the UK. Turnout at general elections is the traditionally most obvious way to determine how high involvement in politics is and was once as high as 83.9 percent of the population in 1950. However, over the last 10 years voting participation has decreased rapidly with the lowest turnout, since 1918, in the UK general election of 2001 of only 59.4 percent. This is compared to how between 1945 and 1992 it was always about 75 percent. Through this, it can be seen that recently, judging from the most blatant way to assess political contribution, it has greatly declined and some may say that due to the large extent of this decline - it is indeed a crisis. Furthermore, not just overall turnout, but turnout amongst young adults at general elections shows evidence of having decreased. For example, in the 2010 general election, only 44 percent of 18 to 24 year old voted, compared to 76 percent of 65 year olds.