The UK would benefit greatly from the wider use of referendums Discuss (30 marks)
The UK would benefit greatly from the wider use of referendums’ Discuss (30 marks)
A referendum is a vote on a particular issue, usually requiring a yes or no response. However there are multiple choice referendums.
A referendum is example of direct democracy within a representative system, it shows a healthy democracy. It also increases political participation. Some people just don’t identify with any particular party, and therefore choose to not vote in General elections. That doesn’t necessarily mean that these people aren’t interested in politics, they can participate in politics in other ways for example by joining a pressure group or voting in a referendum. A referendum only relates to one particular issue and there’s a simple answering system, you don’t have to think about party leaders, joining memberships and which one of the many parties is best for you. Also with general elections, they only occur every 5 years, the public deserve a chance to voice their opinions between then.
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Referendums provide a clear answer to the question that the government is asking, the issues tend to be controversial. For example abortion, a party would be divided and be unable to choose one side over another. By having a referendum the government gets to know what the public wants. For example if a party was in power, and they only had 65% of the total results, 35% of the public won’t agree with their opinions. That 35% can get a say even if its different to the one that the party in power has. Everyone gets the chance to vote. The Scottish independence vote gave 16 year olds the choice to vote, this made sure their voices were heard. The Scottish independence referendum had a turnout of 84.6% showing that people want a say.
Referendums have the power to unite a party. There could be a certain issue the party is unable to agree with, rather than the party leader choosing a side and dividing their own party, they can hold a referendum. This way the leader doesn’t have to take responsibility for dividing the party, the answer will be decided by the public and the party has to agree with whatever the outcome is. Although in 2016 the EU referendum caused more division as the results were 48/51, the results aren’t always decisive.
Referendum questions can be biased, and this affects the results greatly. If a question used words with harsh connotations people would vote affect it, because they will just assume the outcome will be do more damage than good. For example ‘Do you think Scotland should escape from the Uk?’ VS “Do you think Scotland should have independence?’, will both give very different answers because of the wording. Sometimes the questions can be too wordy, and a simple question can be overcomplicated. In situations like this where the voter doesn’t know what to vote for they will likely just vote randomly, this distorts the results.
Low voter turnout always distorts the votes. If only 40% of the population should up to the referendum, it is high likely that the people that are going out of their way to vote are the people would want the referendum. The outcome of a referendum could be 80% to 20% but only 30% of the population may have showed up. For example in 2011, for the AV referendum only 43.2% showed up, the issue was complex and the majority of people didn’t understand.
One side in a referendum could be more popular and therefore receive more funding. If one side has more funding, they can advertise their side better. They can post information biased to them in all homes across the UK. Whereas the other side may not be able to afford this. Also some people see referendums as a waste of money, in 2016 the government spent £9 million on leaflets for remain, not the opposition so it wasn’t as fair.
The people have voted for who they wanted in government, the government in power has fairly won. So the public should trust them to make the decisions, referendums undermine parliament. Too many frequent referendums could create apathy, not just for referendums people could begin to stray away from general elections.
I personally think the UK would benefit from more referendums, the public should be involved in controversial issues. It will get the public more engaged in politics. Although there should be a minimum turnout for a referendum for it to deemed fair.