Jay and Silent Bob from the movie Clerks
Maybe I’ll influence a decision tomorrow.

Skimming through the data tables from the Community Life survey released by the Department for Communities and Local Government today, and there is an intriguing set of numbers around civic participation and feeling that you are able to influence issues in your area.

About four in ten people think that they can influence decisions in their local area, and about two in ten think that they can influence decisions at national level – neither number has changed in the past decade.

However, if you break that number down by age (data table 9 for those playing along at home), young people are much more optimistic about their ability to influence decisions than old people. 42% of those between 16 and 49 think that they can influence decisions at local level (24% think the same about national level decisions). However only 32% of the over-75s think the same about local level (19% national level decisions).

Who are the 50somethings who participate but believe it makes no difference?
Who are the 50somethings who participate but believe it makes no difference? (click to zoom)

Enthusiastic youngsters thinking that they can change the world? Maybe – but take a look at the actual civic participation rate (self-reported civic participation* in the preceding 12 months) – the under-35s believe they can influence but don’t participate, whereas between 50 and 74 you are more likely to participate than you are to think it makes any difference.

More hearteningly, 75% of people think it’s important for them personally to feel that they can influence decisions in their local area, so here at Demsoc we know that we are working on something that matters to people.

* civic participation, by the way, is defined as taking part in some democratic activity such as writing to a councillor, signing a petition or going on a demonstration.

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