Democracy, Participation and Brexit

Are referendums a good idea?/1

What was wrong with the Brexit referendum - and would also be wrong with a second

Depending on their design, referendums can be bad for democracy, writes Joseph Lacey (Oxford University). He argues that the central problem with the Brexit referendum was its ad hoc nature. Any se...

Are referendums a good idea?/2

What lessons can Britain learn from other EU referendums?

Although the upcoming UK referendum on EU membership will only be the second time the British electorate has voted on its participation in the integration project, over 50 referendums have been hel...

Are referendums a good idea?/3

Referendum campaigns can end up convincing voters that their preferred party is right

When people are deciding how to vote in a referendum, do they take their cue from party loyalty or by listening to the debate and making up their own minds? When Céline Colombo (University of Zurich) and Hanspeter Kriesi (European University Institute) analysed two Swiss referendums, they found that voters do pay attention to the arguments.

Are referendums a good idea?/4

The referendum isn't about anyone's lab. It's about democracy

The decision by Universities UK to campaign for Remain has had a chilling effect on academic freedom in Britain's universities, argue Christopher Bickerton and Lee Jones. Pro-EU sentiment has stifled debate about the real impact leaving the EU would have on academic work. Scientists, in particular, have warned that leaving would doom their research.

Generation Brexit - Are the people fit to rule?

Are the people fit to rule? - Generation Brexit

The Brexit vote was an exercise in plebiscitary democracy; a direct appeal to the British people to state their voice on the UK's continued membership to the European Union. However, the second most Googled question in the UK, after the vote took place on 23 June 2016 was 'What is the EU?'

LSE European Institute


Generation Brexit


Learning Outcomes

 In this study guide you will learn more about democracy and participation in the United Kingdom. You will discuss
  • What is democracy? What is participation?
  • The decline (or not) of democratic participation
  • Referendums in the United Kingdom
  • The Brexit referendum

The activities are intended to help you  deepen your understanding of these issues. They will also support the development of those critical thinking skills that you will be expected to demonstrate in your A / AS Level Exams, and at university. 

If you are a STUDENT you will find these  activities useful as part of your self guided study or exam preparation. 

If you are a TEACHER you may wish to incorporate these activities into your lesson plans either  as individual OR small group activities. 



Democracy, participation and Brexit slideshow

Democracy, Participation and Brexit

Study Guide Democracy, Participation and Brexit

Activity One

In this task, you are asked to reflect on democracy and participation. 
Look at the slide ‘What is participation’ (in the slideshow above) and think about the different ways of participating in politics.
  • Are some better than others?
  • Which methods do you think are most effective and why?
  • Are there any methods that are not listed there that you can think of?
  • How can popular participation in democratic politics be increased?

Activity Two

Go to the Generation Brexit 'Are the people fit to rule' debate (on the left)
Read what some of the users of Generation Brexit had to say about whether the people are fit to rule and discuss:
  • Are referendums a good idea? Why yes/why not?
  • Should everyone be allowed to vote?
  • Is information about referendums important?

Activity Three

Results of the Brexit referendum highlighted that a majority of young people voted in favour of remaining in the European Union. Generation Brexit gives young people across the UK and the EU a voice in the Brexit negotiations. 
 Go to the page and look at how young people in the United Kingdom discuss the future of UK-EU relations.
  • Think about the advantages and disadvantages of this form of political participation.
  • Look at what young people say about the future of EU-UK relations: what do they think is most important? What is the place, if any, of democracy in their concerns?
  • Do you think that what they say is very different from what older people you know, or may have heard speak about Brexit, say?

Activity Four: Debate

Based on the activities you have done so far and the readings in this study guide, you should try to  identify reasons FOR and AGAINST the following proposition: 

  • Referendums should be held more often.

You should aim to identify a series of POINT / EXAMPLE / EXPLANATION style arguments. After you have completed these notes, take some time to consider your own point of view. Which arguments do you find most convincing, and on what basis? Be prepared to fully explain your position citing relevant evidence.


If you are using this study guide as part of your independent learning or revision, you may want to conclude this activity by  writing a practice exam style essay on this question.

If you are a teacher using this study guide as part of a lesson plan, then you may wish to use this question  as the basis for a class debate. 

Do you have an idea to share?

Generation Brexit has one purpose: it gives young people across the UK and the EU a voice in the Brexit negotiations. By taking part in this policy making project you can shape the future of UK-EU relations post-Brexit. The best ideas will be turned into policy proposals sent to the UK and EU parliaments. 

Generation Brexit is also offering an exciting opportunity for Sixth Form students to intern with an LSE crowdsourcing project as a PLATFORM FACILITATOR responsible for encouraging constructive engagement with Brexit related issues amongst platform users.

 Each PLATFORM FACILITATOR will be expected to spend half an hour on the platform each week for a period of four weeks, and earn 100 participation points on the platform. These participation points can be earned by voting or commenting on other people’s ideas, responding to surveys or posting your own ideas. PLATFORM FACILITATORS who fulfil these requirements will receive a certificate  from the LSE to highlight their contribution to the project.

 This is a great opportunity to participate in the Brexit debate and gain valuable experience that you can include in your UCAS personal statement. For more information contact

Hansard Society Audit of Political Engagement 2018

Trust in politics

Why British people don't trust the government any more - and what can be done about it

Trust in politicians has fluctuated relatively little during the last 30 years in the UK. It remains stubbornly low. According to an index by the pollsters Ipsos-Mori, 18% of people said they trusted politicians in 1983, and 17% in 2017. Yet this hides some real changes that have taken place in recent years.

IPSOS Report Brexit

How Britain voted in the 2016 EU referendum

As we have for every general election since 1979, Ipsos MORI has produced estimates of how the voters voted in the recent EU referendum.

Giving a voice to Generation Brexit

Giving a voice to generation Brexit

Young people were under-represented in the Brexit referendum because only 40 per cent turned out to vote, but those who did vote opted overwhelmingly to remain. So how can those most affected by the outcome of the exit negotiations be given a voice? A crowd sourcing initiative at London's LSE is attempting to do this.


Listen to Matthew Goodwin, Simona Guerra, James Ball & Marta Lorimer discuss why Leave won

On 27 April, Matthew Goodwin (left) introduced his new book, Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union at the LSE's Wolfson Theatre. Joining the discussion about what drove the Le...

Brexit and Democracy

A happy Brexit? We should rather brace ourselves for a dramatic change in our democratic freedom - for the worse

Second, there was and is undeniable strength from a civil liberties perspective in this idea of 'taking back control'. Civil liberties are linked to but not quite the same as human rights, overlapping but more targeted than human rights. They are concerned more with process than outcome, ensuring a politically free society in which liberty is maximised (Gearty 2007).


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