Participation in Political Organisations in the United Kingdom and the Internet, 2001-2003


Abstract copyright UK Data Service and data collection copyright owner.

This project evaluated the use of the internet by political organisations (parties, interest groups, trade unions and new social movements) to promote participation in two dimensions: increasing vs. decreasing participation: examining whether the internet will increase rates of political participation and attract new citizens into the political process, or lead to greater marginalisation and exclusion of existing non-participants; enhancing vs. reducing the quality of participation: analysing whether electronic participation increases political interest and efficacy, enhances elite accountability, or, due to the impersonal nature of online communication, it reduces the significance of participation. Overall the research contributed to debates about social inclusion and exclusion in political participation and the role and health of political organisations in the UK. In particular it assessed what types of political organisation are best suited to exploiting the new media. Objectives: to develop established theoretical models of political participation by incorporating the role of technology in mobilising citizens; to establish how far the internet is used by political organisations to promote political participation; to develop a new methodology to operationalise and measure the participatory aspects of political organisations' web sites; to create a series of new data sets; to provide guidelines for the most effective usages of new ICTs by political organisations to promote participation. Implications: theoretical: the research updates models of participation and democracy; and sheds more light on the social shaping vs. technological deterministic approaches; empirical: an over time assessment of the attitudinal and behavioural orientation of the UK public towards electronic participation; a benchmark for assessing further innovations; methodological: methodological innovations such as the development of a web site's coding scheme; practical: the research offers suggestions for web site designers and organisations' officials as to the most effective methods of promoting participation via new ICTs.

Main Topics:

The dataset contains material collected from different sources using a variety of methods. It is composed of five types of data: 1) content analyses of the web sites of 29 political organisations, to assess the extent and nature of online participation, at four data points in the course of 18 months; 2) email surveys of organisational elites and key IT personnel in the same organisation in order to gauge the attitude and importance of internet participation strategies, problems and benefits; 3) semi-structured interviews with organisational elites in a sub-sample of the organisations most dependent on the internet, to understand internet participation strategies, problems and benefits; (Only three sample interviews were deposited) 4) membership surveys, both online and postal, with five political organisations (two parties, one trade union and two pressure groups), which gauge the levels of organisational participation and political participation by the respective members; 5) an opinion survey of the British public, to evaluate citizen awareness and usage of the internet for political purposes and to gather a profile of users. Standard Measures: British Marketers Association social grade in the NOP public opinion survey; a shortened Hope-Goldthorpe for all membership surveys; ethnic background from the BES in the membership surveys; five point Likert scales wherever possible in all surveys.

No sampling for online surveys; one-stage stratified or systematic random sample for postal members

Face-to-face interview

Postal survey


Metadata Access
Creator Ward, S., University of Salford, European Studies Research Institute; Lusoli, W., University of Salford, European Studies Research Institute; Gibson, R. K., University of Salford, European Studies Research Institute, Centre for Contemporary History and Politics
Publisher UK Data Service
Publication Year 2005
Funding Reference Economic and Social Research Council
Rights Copyright University of Salford; <p>The Data Collection is available to UK Data Service registered users subject to the <a href="" target="_blank">End User Licence Agreement</a>.</p>
OpenAccess true
Language English
Resource Type Text; Numeric
Discipline Social Sciences
Spatial Coverage England; Europe; Great Britain; Multi-nation; United Kingdom