When the polling stations open next month, it is likely that many of the poorest people will stay away. Britain’s democracy is a divided one. At the 2010 general election, there was a gaping 23 percentage points gap between the turnout of the richest and poorest income groups. Why? Because those living in poverty who choose not to vote often feel completely excluded and disconnected from the political process.
Over the past six years, I have done academic research with a small group of individuals in Leeds directly affected by welfare reform. Most of those I spoke to did not vote. Sam, a young jobseeker when we first met, explained why: “Whoever I vote for, the country’s going to the dogs anyway so I don’t bother”, she said.