Is the Big Society appealing? Now there's some stats

The polling organisation Ipsos MORI have drawn on their extensive past research into people’s enthusiasms and motivations to give insights into how far citizens may want to join the Conservative plans for a Big Society, (previously covered here). Or anyone else’s call for more volunteering.

The chief executive of Ipsos MORI, Ben Page, is quoted as saying: “I don’t know what the Conservatives’ own polling and focus groups are showing, but our research shows that while people like the idea of the big society they are too busy doing other things to make it happen.

“It is not clear that the public wants to accept Mr Cameron’s invitation for greater involvement and local control”.

You can download the full report from Ipsos MORI here as a pdf, and following my request they’ve kindly agreed to upload shortly to Slideshare or similar. I’ll post the link when it’s up. (Slideshare now available here and embedded above – thanks to Jim Kelleher)

Meanwhile I’ll take the slight liberty of quoting further from the FT (free registeration required):

The research shows that large proportions say the public should be more involved in local and national decisions, but only 5 per cent want active involvement and even fewer – perhaps 2 per cent – actually do so in practice.

That still leaves an untapped pool of around 1.7m people who say they want to be involved. But Mr Page points out that Labour, under a different banner of “citizen involvement” has been pushing a similar idea for years, through the New Deal for Communities and a wide range of other initiatives. It even assesses the performance of local authorities on how far people feel they can influence decisions.

“Despite all Labour’s efforts that has pretty much flat-lined ever since 2001,” Mr Page says. “It is going to take a seismic shift in our approach to citizen involvement for the public to notice.”

Part of the problem, Mr Page said, is that people say they want more local control but then also say they want services to be the same everywhere, “and you can’t have both. We are split down the middle on the balance between big society and big government”.

There have been a few tweets about the stats, including one from Cliff Prior, chief exec of Unlimited, putting an optimistic interpretation on people’s lack of involvement: “yes, only 3% of people actively lead stuff but that means 1% more is 33% more activity”. This make the point that what’s particularly important is who volunteers to lead projects, and a small change could make a big difference.

Good to see Ipsos MORI add some substance to the discussion. Anyone got other stats or insights on citizen engagement?

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