The veil of duty: Can dutiful forms of citizenship mask feelings of political dissatisfaction?

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It is widely acknowledged that political dissatisfaction is rife across many established democracies, and yet we generally know very little from citizens themselves about what might be driving this disaffection. Where attention has been paid it typically focuses on groups whose relationship with politics is deemed problematic for one reason or another (e.g. young people). Those with higher rates of political participation are often overlooked, but if participation is undertaken by such people because they feel a sense of duty and obligation then we have little reason to accept their engagement as tacit approval of the political system or status quo. This article explores the question of how those at the normative core of citizenship feel about electoral politics. It uses data from the Mass Observation Project to explore feelings of electoral dissatisfaction amongst dutiful citizens over the seven UK elections between 1983 and 2010. The findings show that high participation and adherence to dutiful norms of citizenship can mask profound and sustained feelings of political dissatisfaction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-483
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Politics
Issue number4
Early online date23 Oct 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • British politics
  • Citizenship
  • Dutiful citizenship
  • Political disengagement
  • Political dissatisfaction
  • Political participation

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