A new report has found that calls for greater regulation in political campaigns have a far greater consensus of support among the general public than arguments against regulation. The research found that a large majority (61%) of people think profiling people based on their online data should be illegal, and the majority of the public think that companies providing services to data driven campaigns should be more tightly regulated.

Polis and the Political Process, written in partnership with the Open Rights Group (ORG), has two distinct aims: to explore the potential of the research tool Polis as a democratic innovation, and – using Polis – to explore public attitudes around data driven political campaigning.

The public fall into three distinct groups in terms of their attitudes around data driven political campaigning: a pro-regulation group, a group who are distrustful of regulators and politicians alike, and a group who support fact verification in campaigning, but are split on wider regulation measures and more likely to pass on questions across the board.

The report found:

  • While the public by no means speaks with one voice on the issue, statements in support of stricter rules around data driven political campaigning gained the greatest levels of support.
  • There is a strong consensus among the British public that facts used in political campaigns need to be verified, and politicians responsible need to be held to account. 90% of respondents agreed that facts used in political campaigns need to be verified, whilst only 4% disagreed.
  • Overwhelming majorities agreed political campaigns should have to obey the same rules when they are advertising online as they do in leaflets or on TV (88%), that greater transparency is needed around political funding (84%), that political campaigns should publish all advertising materials (81%) and that they should publish how much they are spending (79%).
  • For the majority of opponents of regulation, it is not a principled point about freedom of speech or faith in the political system. Rather, they believe campaigns have little impact on their vote, and hold politicians and authorities holding them to account alike in contempt.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Harry Carr, Director of Innovation at Demos and Polis and the Political Process co-author said:

“As the report shows, there is a huge appetite for greater transparency and regulation when it comes to data driven political campaigns, especially if it means holding politicians to account; indeed, the majority would ban their practices outright.

“It also shows the unique value of our groundbreaking research tool, Polis, in allowing people to define the key issues of the debate in their own words, and mapping out the values and motivations that underlie their beliefs. It will provide an incredibly useful tool going forward to find the solutions to some of our thorniest policy issues.”

Read the full report here.