Public trust / Political parties
Frequently described as unrepresentative, undemocratic, self-interested and divided, it is well established that the public – in the UK and other western democracies – are far from satisfied with political parties. Less clear is how, if at all, parties might be changed to improve citizens’ views. Whilst creating supporter networks and opening up channels of participation has been a common response, we explore the role that might be played by greater engagement with experts to help improve public perceptions. This might seem counter-intuitive in an age of populist scepticism towards elites, but we find a broadly positive link between views on expert engagement in parties and satisfaction with parties. However, further data from deliberative workshops with both activists and the public demonstrates that this general trend hides complications and contradictions in public opinion. This means that parties face multiple challenges if trying to realise citizens’ desires for expert engagement.