The study shows people recognise the barriers to women becoming MPs

Two thirds of voters think more women should be elected as MPs, a new survey shows.

The study shows people recognise the barriers to women becoming MPs and think more of them in Parliament would improve politics.

Currently around a third of MPs are women. Among those who took part in the research there was a strong desire for greater gender balance, with 66 per cent agreeing that there should be more women MPs. Among those under 35, this support rose to 75 per cent.

Three quarters of women questioned supported increased female representation in elected positions, compared to 56 per cent of men. Only one in ten respondents (11 per cent) thought there should not be a higher number of women elected as MPs.

The research is jointly funded by Centenary Action’s Women Count campaign and the European Union.

Dr Helen Pankhurst, Convener of Centenary Action, said: “The public want more women MPs and recognise that politics will be improved by having more women in parliament. We now need greater action to achieve a gender equal parliament.”

Sofia Collignon, from QMUL and Kaitlin Senk and Susan Banducci, from the University of Exeter, and the TWICEASGOOD project contributed to the research.

Professor Banducci said: “The most common reason for people supporting more female MPs was the necessity for women’s voices to be equally represented in the legislative body and giving people an equal seat at the decision-making table. Half said there was a need for a change from the current male dominated model of politics.” 

Among those who took part in the survey 15 per cent more women than men agreed it is important to have a female perspective in policy decisions and 18 per cent more women than men agreed there was a need for a departure from the current male-dominated model of politics.

A significant majority, 69 per cent, of those questioned believed inequalities within political parties contributed to women being less likely to be chosen for winnable seats. A third of women said this was a big barrier compared with 23 per cent of men.  A total of 63 per cent said media bias was a barrier, and 62 per cent, believed voters often consider women candidates as less competent. Three quarters of women who took part in the research said the views of voters were a barrier compared to 48 per cent of men.

Just over half of respondents were in favour of gender quotas and political parties taking more proactive measures to ensure the election of women. Only 47 per cent explicitly support the implementation of mandatory quotas.

More than half of respondents (56 per cent) disagreed that abusive and intimidatory speech are an inherent part of politics. More disagreed (49 per cent) than agreed (25 per cent) that enforcing rules against abuse, harassment, and intimidation interfered with politics.  More respondents agreed (49 per cent) than disagreed (16 per cent) that political candidates who openly discuss the harassment and intimidation they have faced are strong. 

Professor Banducci said: “Those who took part in our research rejected abusive behaviour in politics and supported the enforcement of rules against harassment, but we found still work to be done on fostering understanding of the impact of abuse on politics in general and specifically on women wanting to stand for office.”

Polling was carried out by Opinium and included 2,077 UK adults, who were questioned between 14th and 16th June 2023. Data are weighted to be nationally and politically representative.