People on lower incomes are less likely to vote than people on higher incomes.
And it’s not just voting. A recent American study found that “Lower-income people are more likely than others to withhold political opinions by saying “don’t know“”
Some, for example this recent report by Policy Network have argued that we need new institutions to engage people in politics. They called for:
“local deliberative bodies or citizen assemblies, support local authorities conduct effective participatory budgeting exercises, and experiment with new means for the public to engage in political decision-making processes in more direct and sustained ways”
There may well be a place for these things but the chances are that they are just as likely to replicate existing inequalities as they are to overcome them. For example, if working class people do not feel engaged in politics but middle class people do, there is a risk that the middle class people would dominate any new local assemblies.
Historically, one of the ways that working class people got involved in politics was through membership of formal associations such as trade unions. People learned that their opinions were valid and deserved to be heard through being members of these clubs or associations.
However, membership of trade unions has been in decline for many years.
Indeed, few people are members of any type of association (although significant numbers are still members of sports clubs).
The situation is starker still if we break the numbers down by age. Most people under 35 are not members of any type of political, voluntary or recreational association.
It’s probably no coincidence that as well as not being members of clubs, most people under 35 also do not think that most people can be trusted.
There is plenty out there to give working class people the impression that their views don’t count. For examples, schools and workplaces can often reinforce the view that it’s best to keep your head down rather than speak out, particularly on controversial topics. Changing this requires far more than making it easier to vote.