GDWe: A spotlight on democratic wellbeing

Date
January 21, 2022
Issues
Organisation
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Carnegie UK developed a methodology to enable collective wellbeing in England to be measured and reported as a single figure: Gross Domestic Wellbeing (GDWe). We see GDWe as an alternative measure of social progress to the dominant measure: GDP. In this report we focus on democratic wellbeing - one of the four domains identified by Carnegie UK as contributing to collective wellbeing, the others being social, economic and environmental wellbeing.

As we have noted in our work on wellbeing in Northern Ireland, democratic wellbeing is both a means to greater social, economic and environmental wellbeing AND an end in itself, impacting directly on personal wellbeing

The report uses polling data from YouGov to demonstrate that we can no longer afford to be complacent about the state of our democracy. Democratic wellbeing in England is under threat, with loss of trust and corruption identified as threats to democracy,

We reiterate our call for the UK Government to explore fully composite indices like GDWe. Such transparent information, based on a public conversation about what should be included in GDWe, could contribute to collective wellbeing by increasing public trust and enabling citizens to hold government to account.

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Carnegie UK has today published GDWe: A spotlight on democratic wellbeing, research and polling which shows that democratic wellbeing in England is under severe threat. This research was conducted by YouGov polling between 12th - 13th December 2021, which coincided with a heightened focus on levels of trust in government. The results are stark: 2 in 5 people in England (41%) now say that democracy is not working. People see the biggest current threat to our democracy as a loss of trust (32%) followed by corruption (16%). 76% of the public in England don’t trust MPs, while 73% don’t trust the UK Government.

This report builds on Carnegie UK’s work on Gross Domestic Wellbeing (GDWe)™ - a holistic alternative to GDP as a measure of collective wellbeing. We use data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Wellbeing Dashboard to calculate GDWe. However this national wellbeing dataset underrepresents the importance of democratic wellbeing, with only 2 indicators out of 41 measuring this aspect of our lives. At Carnegie UK, when we talk about democratic wellbeing we are referring to the extent to which we all - collectively - have a voice in decisions that affect us. Wellbeing cannot be ‘done to’ people, it has to be done by and with them. Yet, in order for people to feel positive about participating in democratic processes and decision making, it is essential to have public trust in government at all levels.

GDWe: A spotlight on democratic wellbeing found that in addition to a loss of trust there are also issues with current levels of participation in decision-making; misinformation, and misalignment with commonly held public values. Other aspects that help make up democratic wellbeing, such as involvement in public participation and citizen engagement, are also poorly measured in the UK. This report calls on government to invest in democratic wellbeing by increasing participatory democracy and improving transparency, as well as focusing on measures of national success in keeping with people’s priorities, rather than relying solely on economic measures.

The full report is available here and you can add to the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #GDWe

If you would like to get in touch, please contact my colleagues Hannah Ormston or Rachel Heydecker on hannah.ormston@carnegieuk.org or rachel.heydecker@carnegieuk.org