Advantages and disadvantages of representative democracy

  • Created by: Milbob1
  • Created on: 21-10-18 12:56

Advantages and disadvantages of representative democracy

AdvantagesGetting Started

  • The only practical system in a large modern state, where issues are complex and often need rapid response (for example, the deployment of troops)
  • Politicians form parties, bringing coherence and giving people a real choice of representative. Pressure groups form to represent different interests, promoting debate and encouraging pluralist democracy
  • Reduces chance of minority rights being overridden by 'tyranny of the majority'
  • Elections allow people to hold representatives to account
  • Politicians are (in theory) better informed than the average citizen about the many issues on which they must take a view


  • May lead to reduced participation as people choose to hand responsibility to politicians
  • Parties and pressure groups are often run by elite pursuing their own agendas, not truly representing the people e.g. Tony Blair delaying the implementation of a ban on tobacco advertising in Formula One racing after receiving a £1 million donation to Labour from motor-racing boss Bernie Ecclestone
  • Minorities still find themselves under-represented as politicians are more likely to follow the views of the majority to secure election e.g. Theresa May actually supported Remain and Jeremy Corbyn is a Eurosceptic
  • Politicians are skilful in avoiding accountability, especially as general elections are usually 5 years apart in the UK
  • Politicians may be corrupt and incompetent, may betray election promises or put loyalty to their party before responsibility to the electorate. e.g. some people may vote for a PM not their constituent so being removed from a party may end an MP's political career
  • Are people really in power if they elect someone who doesn't do what they want/what they voted for? Edmund Burke [insert quote], but do people really vote for a politician's judgement?


Representative democracy is a good idea, although it has its drawbacks. It is sometimes a good idea to have direct democracy within a representative democracy, eg national referendums and the 2015 Recall of MPs Act which helps hold representatives to account


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