Defining, Measuring and Monitoring Democratic Health in Wales

In Wales, concerns over the health of democracy have long focused on low voter turnout in elections and a lack of political awareness and understanding among the population. However, the issue of democratic health goes wider than this. Are citizens engaged in political issues? Do they have the sources of education and information to allow them to take views on important political matters affecting their lives? Are their rights to political organisation and expression protected? And are all citizens equally able to participate in democratic processes, no matter what their background?

The Counsel General has asked the Wales Centre for Public Policy (WCPP) to explore how Wales’ democratic health can best be defined, measured, and monitored. This work will help focus efforts to increase participation and engagement in national and local democratic processes in Wales, especially among under-represented groups.

The report focuses on three research questions:

  1. What could a healthy democracy look like in Wales?
  2. How can data best be collected and reported to measure Wales’ democratic health?
  3. How can Wales’ democratic health best be monitored?

We present six criteria for assessing the health of Welsh democracy, both at the national level and across the various levels of local government. A healthy democracy is one where the six criteria are well observed across all levels of the Welsh political system.

There are various ways in which the democratic health of Wales could be measured. While there are a number of international projects providing measures of democratic health for most countries of the world, including the UK, none of these include measures for Wales.

There is a recognised need for more official statistics and other forms of measurement to understand the health of Welsh democracy. While there are some existing measures which could help to assess democratic health in Wales, other would need to be developed in order to generate a more well-rounded picture. The report suggests utilising a range of sources, including expert analysis and official statistics, as well as experimenting with bespoke methods such as citizen science or language models.