Samara's Democracy 360

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The Report Card

Executive Summary

Samara's Democracy 360, a report card on the state of Canada's democracy, focuses on the complex relationship between citizens and political leadership. With the understanding that democracy is about more than just casting a ballot every four years, any conversation about how decisions are taken on the future of our country needs to consider a more robust definition of "everyday democracy."

Samara's Democracy 360 expands the measurement of democracy and kick-starts a conversation using measurable indicators focused on three areas essential to a healthy democracy: communication, participation and political leadership. That is: talking, acting and leading.

The Democracy 360 brings together a number of data sources, such as Samara's public opinion research and website content analyses, as well as publicly available data from other sources, including the House of Commons and Elections Canada. And as such it is designed to be a thorough, yet manageable, look at the health of citizens' relationship with politics, and one that can be repeated, and will be in 2017 in time for Canada’s 150th birthday.

In an effort to set a benchmark that prompts reflection and discussion, Samara has awarded an overall letter grade as well as a letter grade for each of the three areas, as outlined in this report.


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Democracy 360 Grade CThe Result

What does C mean? Quite simply our democracy is not doing as well as a country as rich as Canada deserves. Canadians are not participating in politics as much as they could, they don’t believe it affects them, and they don't see their leaders as influential or efficacious. To turn this situation around, Canada requires more than just higher voter turnout. Canada requires a culture shift towards "everyday democracy," in which citizens feel politics is a way to make change in the country and their voices are heard.

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What's Inside Samara's Democracy 360?

Canadians don’t trust Members of Parliament or political parties and believe they largely fail to perform their core jobs:

  • Only 40% of Canadians report that they trust MPs to do what is right and only 42% of Canadians place some trust in political parties.
  • Canadians give MPs and political parties failing grades on nearly all their responsibilities, ranging from reaching out to citizens to their work in Parliament. Overall, Canadians feel MPs do a better job representing the views of the party than they do representing their constituents.

Politics is seen as irrelevant and, as a result, Canadians are withdrawing from the democratic system:

  • Only 31% of Canadians believe politics affects them every day.
  • Only 37% give any time or resources to formal political activities between elections.
  • A surprising number (39%) say they haven’t had a single political conversation—online or offline—in a year-long period.
  • With a federal voter turnout of 61% puts Canada in the bottom fifth among democracies, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

To make politics relevant, Canadians will need to see the value in politics and democracy. This will require the following changes:

  • MPs who serve as reliable, vibrant, two-way links between citizens and government.
  • Citizens who become more politically active at and beyond the ballot box.
  • Political leadership that acts in ways that encourages Canadians’ involvement and demonstrates how politics is a worthwhile way to invest time in order to make a difference.           

Despite an overall unhealthy picture, the Democracy 360 also reveals several positive signs on which to build:   

  • MPs make considerable efforts—through social media, householder mailings and their websites—to reach out to Canadians. With small changes, they can communicate much more effectively.
  • Over half of Canadians petition, donate to charity and volunteer, revealing a desire to connect to causes rooted in and affected by politics.

An election in 2015 presents a real opportunity to build momentum towards a more engaging political culture:

  • Individual volunteers, candidates and parties, as well as community groups, can all take simple steps to change how citizens get involved and demand a more responsive democracy.
  • Under #TalkActLead, anyone can contribute ideas and solutions to improve how politics works. To spur engagement, Samara Canada will be releasing tip sheets and resources as the election approaches.

Read the Report

 

The Numbers

Samara’s Democracy 360 uses quantifiable indicators to focus on three areas that are essential to a healthy democracy: communication, participation and political leadership.

The indicators measured in this report track Canadian democracy across a wide range of areas, from diversity in the House of Commons to the many ways Canadians can participate in politics to how Members of Parliament and parties function. While not exhaustive, together the indicators paint a rich picture of the way that Canadians talk, act and lead in politics, adding multiple dimensions to voter turnout, the metric most commonly used to measure democracy.

Look through the Numbers below

 

BONUS! 

Democracy 360: The Provinces

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Get the provincial story here