Majority of Britons Would Be More Likely to Vote for a Party that Considers Disinformation to be a Threat than Considers Free Speech to Be Under Threat

April 12, 2021
R&WS Research Team
British Culture & Identity | Law
Share this research:

Our Most Recent Research

In December, Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to tackle vaccine ‘disinformation’ online after Labour Leader Keir Starmer called for emergency legislation to compel social media sites to take down ‘disinformation.’ Meanwhile, the Government also pledged to introduce ‘free speech champions’ to universities and enforce standards for free speech and academic freedom on university campuses. Critics have noted a conflict between promises to uphold free speech while also tackling disinformation.

Research conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies has found that 56% of British respondents would be more likely to vote for a Party that considers disinformation to be a threat, while 44% would be more likely to vote for a Party that considers free speech to be under threat.

Majorities in every age group say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that considers disinformation a threat rather than one that considers free speech to be under threat. Moreover, both the majority of 2019 Conservative voters (58%) and the majority of 2019 Labour voters (55%) say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that considers disinformation to be a threat than one that considers free speech to be under threat.

The overall lean towards favouring parties that see disinformation as a threat could reflect the current fears about vaccine disinformation online. Nevertheless, a significant minority in each age group (40%-47%) say they would be more likely to vote for a Party that considers free speech to be under threat.

A fifth (19%) say they don’t know how aligned they are with the Labour Party under Keir Starmer’s views on free speechresearch conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies has found that the public are largely unsure about what Keir Starmer stands for. Overall, respondents are divided on how they align with the Labour Party’s views on free speech: the average alignment score with the Labour Party’s views on free speech under Keir Starmer was 4.1. A third (32%) gave a score below 5 and 36% gave a score above 5.

A tenth (10%) of 2019 Conservative voters say they are not at all aligned with the Labour Party’s views on free speech, but a plurality (18%) say they don’t know. 2019 Labour voters are split on how they align with the Labour Party’s views on free speech under Keir Starmer’s leadership.

Respondents were similarly divided on how aligned they are with Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party’s views on free speech, though they are slightly more likely to tend toward the extremes: 12% say they are not at all aligned with the Conservative Party’s views on free speech while a further tenth (9%) say they are completely aligned. 9% don’t know. The average alignment score with Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party’s views on free speech was 4.4, slightly higher than that for the Labour Party but still quite neutral.

A fifth (19%) of 2019 Labour Party voters say they are not at all aligned with the Conservative Party’s views on free speech, but 28% of 2019 Labour Party voters gave an alignment score of 6 or above. 16% of 2019 Conservative voters say they are completely aligned with the Conservative Party’s views on free speech under Boris Johnson and two-thirds (66%) gave a score of 6 or above.

Ultimately, the majority of the British public—regardless of age or 2019 political vote—say they are more likely to vote for a Party that considers disinformation a threat rather than one that considers free speech to be under threat. Yet a significant minority in all age groups and 2019 political parties say they are more likely to vote for a Party that considers free speech to be under threat. Overall, the British public are split on how aligned their views are with the Labour Party or Conservative Party on issues of free speech and a significant minority say they are unsure how aligned they are with Keir Starmer’s Labour Party on free speech. But 2019 Conservative voters are significantly more aligned with the Conservative Party’s views on free speech under Boris Johnson than 2019 Labour voters are with the Labour Party’s views on free speech under Keir Starmer.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

Follow us on Twitter

Share our research:

Our Most Recent Research