In this subproject of The Voice of the People, Jamie Lee Jenkins analyses how ordinary citizens in postwar Britain have perceived the political system. It explores the expectations they had of their political representatives and investigates the role played by the tabloid press in articulating popular expectations of democracy. Research into these issues will improve our understanding of the role played by ordinary citizens in shaping postwar political culture.
At the heart of the investigation is a range of communicative practices and media platforms through which changing articulations of democracy entered the public sphere: newspapers own reporting, commissioned and published opinion polls, letters to the editor, and television which early on experimented with formats in which citizens were given the opportunity to speak their minds on the political issues of the day.
Although media history has recently been enriched with studies on the mediatisation of politics, we still know very little about the role played by the mass media in the communication of popular expectations of democracy. This project argues that, rather than being trivial and unsubstantial, the tabloid press can offer vital insight into and oriented content towards offering a platform for their readers to express their political opinion and for citizens and politicians to interact. The subproject investigates both how newspapers rendered popular expectations of democracy public – through techniques and formats like polls, surveys, letters-to-the-editor and new forms of reporting – and how journalists reflected on their role in offering a platform for the political opinions of ordinary citizens. On top of that, the subproject also investigates the wider media environment through the lens of newspapers, for example when “the voice of the people” entered the TV-screens. Through these formats, TV had a profound impact on how citizens could make sense of political issues and position themselves in the spectrum of popular opinion that was offered to them by the media. How did the tabloid press respond to this? How did these new formats alter the ways people related to and experiened democracy?