Public opinion about data-driven election campaigning in the UK
Immediately following the UK general election in December 2019, we worked with Open Rights Group to commission a YouGov poll about public understanding and public opinion about the use of data-driven campaigning in elections.
The poll used a representative sample of 1,664 adults across the UK population.
'Data-driven political campaigning' is about using specific data about you to target specific messages at you. So, for this might involve knowing that you are, for example, likely to have two children between the ages of 2-5, and then using this data to target political messages at you that are designed to appeal to young parents, such as messages about investment in early years education. All of this would be done without these political parties revealing to you what data they hold about you, and indeed without telling you that that they are presenting you with these particular messages because of that data.
Key findings from the poll include:
- 58% of people polled oppose the use of targeted ads during elections.
- 69% of people polled oppose election spending when the source of that money is unknown.
- Evidence suggests that the more the public knows about data-driven campaigning, the more they want to see stronger controls around its use.
- 78% of people polled want to see tougher punishments like criminal convictions and fines when political campaigning rules are breached.
- Many of the public don’t even know that data-driven political campaigning is happening. Therefore they won’t know that they are potentially being presented with certain kinds of messages because of what political parties think they will be interested in, and that others will be targeted with very different messages.