UK public is increasingly apathetic towards politics but Christians buck the trend

Well yesterday I learnt a new word; SpAd, and then found out that Jeremy Hunt MP has lost his.

If you don’t know what a SpAd is, let me fill you in.  A SpAd is a special adviser.  They are a key part of any secretary of state’s team; political appointees who are employed as civil servants but are free from the civil service requirement to show impartiality and objectivity.  Following on from Tuesday’s revelations at the Leveson inquiry, Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt’s special adviser Adam Smith has quit over contact with News Corp that he said “went too far”.

Another bad day for the Government and another bad day for politics.

Just in case any MPs were still somehow managing to find a positive spin on things, the Hansard Society published its latest set of figures on public attitudes to politics.  The figures reveal a significant increase in indifference to politics amongst the public:

  • 42% of respondents say they are interested in politics (down 16% from last year)
  • Liberal Democrat supporters down 22 points to 50%
  • Conservative supporters down 8 points to 65%
  • Labour supporters down 12 points to 48%
  • 44% of respondents  say they are knowledgeable about politics (down 9 points)
  • 48% of respondents  say they are ‘certain to vote’ in the event of an immediate general election (down 10 points to the lowest level ever recorded in the Audit series)
  • 30% of respondents  say they are ‘unlikely’ or ‘absolutely certain not’ to vote (up 10 points)
  • Only 24% think our system of governing works reasonably well (down 7 points)
  • Only 49% agree that the issues debated and decided in Parliament have relevance to their own lives
  • Only 38% agree that the government is held to account by Parliament
  • Only 30% agree that Parliament encourages public involvement in politics
  • 56% agree that their involvement in their local community could bring about change
  • Only 32% say the same about involvement in national politics
  • However, only 38% actually want to be involved in local decision-making, and 33% involved in national decision-making
  • There has been a striking decline over the past two years in the proportion of the public undertaking voluntary work. This has dropped by eight percentage points (from 29% in 2010 to 21% today) – a worrying development for proponents of the Big Society agenda.

Dr Ruth Fox, Director of the Hansard Society’s Parliament and Government programme, and co-author of the report, commented:

‘2011 was one of the most turbulent and momentous years in recent history. But it appears that the economic crisis, the summer riots and phone hacking did not lead to any greater interest in or knowledge of politics. The public seem to be disgruntled, disillusioned and disengaged. Thus far, coalition politics does not appear to have been good for public engagement. Worryingly, only a quarter of the population are satisfied with our system of governing, which must raise questions about the long-term capacity of that system to command public support and confidence in the future.’

However compare the above figures with these on Christian voting patterns at the 2010 general election taken from the 2010 British Election Study:

  • 94% of Anglicans voted
  • 89% of Catholics voted
  • 93% of those belonging to other Christian denominations voted

This compares with a national turnout of 65%

Also whilst nationally community involvement and volunteering is dropping, the Church of England tells us that:

  • More people do unpaid work for church organisations than any other organisation.
  • A quarter of regular churchgoers (among both Anglicans and other Christians separately) are involved in voluntary community service outside the church. Churchgoers overall contribute 23.2 million hours voluntary service each month in their local communities outside the church.
  • The Church of England provides activities outside church worship in the local community for 407,000 children and young people (aged under 16 years) and 32,900 young people (aged 16 to 25 years). More than 116,000 volunteers and an additional 4900 employed adults run children/young people activity groups sponsored by the Church of England outside church worship.

So why do Christians do this?  Why do we care?  It’s because God tells us to care for our world, our society and those around us.  It’s part of our spiritual DNA.  Take these two passages for example:

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,  to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. (Titus 3:1,2)

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.  (James 2:14-17)

Whilst we shouldn’t boast in any way about being better than others, these sort of statistics demonstrate the way in which as Christians, God’s Holy Spirit in us changes us and sets His agenda on our hearts.

We care because God cares and everyone benefits as a result.  We might get frustrated with our politicians like everyone else, but we mustn’t give up on those who run our country.  They need our help more than most of them realise.

Categories: Church, Elections

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2 replies

  1. Interesting stats. What also interested me at Spring harvest was the general feeling that we are not engaging enough with our communities. The general theme was less talk more action and a sense that the Holy spirit was moving us to do yet more. Mission mission mission !!! ( with apologies to Tony Blair ) So are we being too hard on ourselves or are we just perfectionists by nature, or maybe its just a recognition that there is so much more to do with regard to supporting our society and we know that God wants us to be a part of that.

    • I think it’s a combination of not recognising the excellent work that is going on and knowing that there is so much more that could be done, that leaves us feeling dissatisfied. Admittedly some churches are probably doing better than others.

      We should be celebrating the good that Christians are doing in this country without boasting or getting big headed and also seeking God to see what else there is to do.

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