In addition to their views of the efficacy of the political system, which we refer to as external political efficacy and which centres on the openness and responsiveness of the system, people also have views of their own abilities to engage with that system. We refer to these views as their sense of internal political efficacy, and the survey measured this as a relative concept focusing on ‘most people’ as the reference point. So, we are looking at people’s sense of whether they are more or less able than most people to influence political decisions made a local, regional, and national level.
As we can see in Figure 1 (above, using weighted data), more than half of people think that they have the same level of influence as most people, whether the focus is on the local (54.9%, panel A), regional (55.0%, panel B), or national (54.3%, panel C) level. However, the people who do not choose the middle option are slightly differently distributed depending on the geographical level. The very small number of people who think that they have more influence than most declines from one in thirteen (7.8%) at local level to one in twenty-eight (3.6%) at regional level and one in thirty-one (3.2%) at national level. The numbers who think that they have less influence than most rise concomitantly, from more than a third (37.3%) at local level to more than two fifths (41.4%) at regional level and a similar but slightly higher number (42.6%) at national level.
Overall then, people tend to think that, at best, they have about the same level of influence as most people over political decisions regardless of the geographical level of government. At local, regional, and national level, more than nine in ten people think that they have the same level as influence as most people or less. The prevailing scepticism regarding the level of influence that the population have over political decision-making is affirmed by the fact that most people peg their own influence at or below that level. In other words, people tend to think that neither they, nor people more generally, have much say over political decisions. This may be accurate in the sense that it often takes a large amount of collective effort to influence political decisions, but it also suggests something of a malaise regarding the United Kingdom’s democracy.