Academics seek role in combating political apathy among voters

March 8, 2002

Researchers are urging the Scottish Executive to repeat a unique voter education campaign to combat political apathy.

But Martin Cloonan of Glasgow University's department of adult and continuing education and Peter Lynch of Stirling University's politics department say it is important to involve adult educationists in the process.

Academic expertise was ignored for the campaign launched before the first Scottish parliamentary elections in 1999.

Writing in the new issue of the Journal of Adult and Continuing Education , Dr Cloonan and Dr Lynch say the motivation for the campaign was Scotland's new electoral structure, which combined the traditional first-past-the-post system with proportional representation.

But they warn that ongoing voter education is crucial since the legitimacy of the political system is undermined if voters do not understand the consequences of their actions.

"As electoral mandates are frequently cited by governments as a justification for policy, such pursuits rest on an assumption that voters at least know the basics of the voting system."

They say studies of New Zealand's voter education campaigns show that these must be repeated and targeted at minorities such as young voters and ethnic groups.

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