The Constitution Unit


Elections and Referendums

Questions relating to elections and referendums are currently at the heart of political reform debates in the UK and around the world. How can low levels of voter participation in elections be addressed? How can electoral institutions best be adapted in response to voters’ changing expectations? Do referendums contribute positively to a healthy democratic system? Could referendums be run differently to improve their operation?

The Constitution Unit’s research in this area is led by Dr Alan Renwick and falls into these primary areas. 


Independent Commission on Referendums

A Commission of senior figures has been established to review the role of referendums in British democracy and consider how the rules and practice could be improved.

Discourse during Election and Referendum Campaigns

Research into how we can improve the quality of information that is available during election and referendum campaigns and help voters to access it.  

Electoral Systems in the UK 

Research into how the UK electoral system is performing, what changes might be desirable, and what the likelihood is that such changes will take place.

Conduct of Referendums

Ongoing research into the quality of debate during referendum campaigns and whether anything can be done to enhance that quality.

Electoral Reform around the World

Research into the circumstances in which and the processes through which electoral systems change, and the nature of the changes taking place around the world today.

Recent Publications

Report of the Independent Commission on Referendumsfaces-on-a-ballotEU Referendum Analysis 2016 Cover

In addition to the projects outlined in the links above, Dr Renwick’s research into constitutional conventions also examines methods of engaging citizens in political decision-making – specifically through mechanisms beyond the ballot box, such as citizens’ assemblies. Details of this work can be found within our Constitutions and Constitution-Making.

Our research on Parties and Politicians, led by Dr Jennifer Hudson, also addresses related issues.

Archive of earlier research on Elections and Referendums

The Constitution Unit has in the past conducted important research that has shaped the rules and institutions that regulate elections and referendums in the UK and influenced wider electoral reform debates. Click here for access to that research.