The idea of a citizens’ assembly has been proposed by many in the UK as a way of bringing a divided country together. New research on citizenship raises questions about the prospects of this exercise.

Together with my colleague, Cory Massaro, I have analysed the conditions under which this assembly could take place. We are conducting a large-scale analysis of language use in the UK (and Ireland) today, focusing on the term “citizen” and related concepts around social and political status, and have now been able to present our initial findings at the Royal Society of Arts.

While the word “citizen” once covered a wide range of activities and interests, including a person’s contribution to society at large and the way in which their views were represented, public discourse in the UK over the past several months has narrowed considerably, and largely restricts the term to one specific group of people only. The results are disturbing, the picture being one of crisis, strife and mistrust. Deep divisions between Remain and Leave leaning media can be observed with regard to every single term and phrase we have examined.

The results are available here.

If you would like to discuss the implications of these findings please get in touch.

We will continue this inquiry and present further results in the coming weeks and months.