Data and Democracy

Democratic Innovations: Polis and the political process

Open Rights Group and Demos yesterday published an exciting new report that provides insight on public attitudes towards data driven campaigning.

The report covers the use of an exciting democratic innovation; a deliberative platform called Polis. Polis has been used in Taiwan to involve the public in policy making in an innovative, cost effective way.

The report found, amongst other things:

  1. 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.
  2. 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%).
  3. 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.

However perhaps the most significant of all was the demonstration of a positive use case for technology to enhance, rather than harm, the democratic process.

Pascal Crowe, Data and Democracy Project Officer at ORG said:

“This report supports previous research on this topic by Open Rights Group. The public do not want to be targeted and have their rights abused by data driven political campaigns. While transparency is part of the solution, the public also just wants tight rules and heavier enforcement.

By contrast, Polis makes a positive case for using innovative technology in the democratic process. Rather than narrowing debate, encouraging polarisation and demeaning trust, this tool provides the opportunity to build public consensus in policy making.”

ORG and Demos will be publicly discussing Polis, its findings, and potential for democracy Monday 10th August 2020.