We know that political participation through voting has decreased over the years, with an extremely low voter turnout of 59.3% in the 2001 elections. However, this doesn’t mean that political participation overall has decreased. This is because there are many different alternative forms of political participation, of which many are becoming more popular. One example of an alternative form of political participation is protests and demonstrations, something which has increased in popularity and is becoming more socially acceptable. In 2011 alone we saw many examples of this, for example millions turned out to protest against the raising of tuition fees, and hundreds camped outside St Paul’s cathedral for months. People clearly feel their voices aren’t heard through the traditional political system, so they protest instead.
There are other forms of political participation too, New Social Movements and pressure groups are people who focus on one particular issue, and then act upon what they think is right. Greenpeace, the Anti-capitalist movement and the Feminist movement are all examples of new social movements. Similarly to protests and demonstrations, New Social Movements and Pressure groups are become more popular. There are many different explanations that could explain why. It could be because they tend to focus on one particular issue, so people think they are better equipped to resolve a problem than political parties who have to focus on many problems. Another reason is that pressure groups and NSMs tend to be informal, meaning that people can participate without having to be too involved. Finally, pressure groups and NSMs act bound by the laws rules and laws as political parties, so they can use different methods, something which could make them more efficient.
However, not all forms of political participation are increasing in popularity. Political party membership has been steadily decreasing for many years. For example, labour lost 150,000 members in the 6 years between 1997 and 2003.