A recent survey by the Pew Research Center of the four major Western powers turned up some interesting if not altogether surprising results. The goal of the study was to determine how the citizens of the four—U.S., France, Germany and the UK—feel about their political systems.
The survey suggested the French and the Americans are particularly unhappy about how democracy is working for them. Solid majorities in both countries feel their systems need major reform. About half the British feel the same way. Only the Germans showed solid confidence in their system. Eighty percent trust their government to do what is best for their country, compared to just over 50 percent in the other three.
Similar results emerged when the survey asked about corruption. A full two-thirds of Americans agreed that “most politicians are corrupt” with about half of the French and British agreeing. Less than a third of Germans feel that way.
It is impossible not to note that the three countries where trust is low all have voting systems that lack proportionality. Only Germany uses proportional representation (PR).
One area where the publics of all four countries came close to agreeing is on how much people can do to influence their government. Germans and Americans were slightly more inclined toward the view that “ordinary people can do a lot to influence the government” while the British and French publics are more evenly split.
Perhaps in response to this perceived lack of influence, respondents in all four countries solidly supported citizens’ assemblies, randomly selected bodies of citizens formed to deliberate on policy issues. Over three-quarters say “it is somewhat or very important for the national government to create citizen assemblies where citizens debate issues and make recommendations about national laws.”
This brings me to our electoral system. Like the Americans and the Brits, we too labour under first-past-the-post. We may not be as discontented as they are, but a switch to PR would nonetheless offer a major improvement to our democracy.
That very issue is about to be considered by the federal government’s Procedures and House Affairs Committee. A motion on a National Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform is about to be put to a vote by the committee. If you support PR, you can send a note to the Prime Minister and the committee members merely by clicking here. Just fill in the blanks, modify the already prepared message if you like, and click send. Please.