Public are kept in the dark over data driven political campaigning, poll finds

Open Rights Group commissioned YouGov, a polling company, to conduct two polls to gauge public attitudes towards data driven campaigning practices. One poll was nationally representative and another sampled a selection of the most marginal constituencies in Britain – and therefore some of the constituents most likely to experience these activities. The fieldwork for both polls took place the week after the election. 

The nationally representative sample demonstrated a worrying lack of awareness of these issues. 42% of those polled were aware of undeclared spending donations (‘dark money’). Similarly, 44% of the national sample were aware of ‘dark ads’ (online adverts only seen by the recipient). Just half (54%) of those in the national sample were aware of the practice of targeting or tailoring adverts (political microtargeting). When asked however, a majority of the national sample were against these practices occurring during an election. The strongest opposition was to dark money (69%). 

Whilst there was strong support for a range of policy responses, tougher punishments was the most popular remedy (78%). This was replicated in the results from the marginal constituencies (85%). The marginal constituencies polled were more strongly in favour of policy remedies on the whole. In addition, they tended to have much higher awareness of data driven campaigning practices than the national sample, particularly with regards to political microtargeting (63%). 

On a positive note, the polls suggest that the more people are aware of the data driven campaigning practices that dictate our politics, the stronger the support for policy interventions. Comparing the national results to the targeted constituency results, awareness of campaigning practices was greater in marginal constituencies, as was support for intervention policies generally. However, the lack of national awareness of these practices after the ‘most digital election, ever’ is problematic for electoral reform. 

Pascal Crowe, Data and Democracy Project Officer at Open Rights Group said: 

Political microtargeting, astroturf ads and unnaccountable money are upending our electoral system. Despite this, citizens remain in the dark. The onus is now on politicians to take the initiative and push electoral reform up the legislative agenda. The time to act is now.  

Notes to Editors

Open Rights Group have developed a tool that allows you to discover the data that political parties hold on you. Find out more here:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Sample size for targeted constituency poll was 1098 adults and figures have been weighted to be representative of a selection of 28 marginal constituencies in GB. Fieldwork for this took place 16th-24th December 2019. Sample size for nationally representative sample was 1664 adults and figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Fieldwork for this took place 16th-17th December 2019. Both surveys were carried out online. 

A full breakdown of results can be found here: 



For further information please contact Federica Dadone, Communication Officer for Open Rights Group, at or 0207 0961079.