Can Discourse during Election and Referendum Campaigns be Improved?

Electoral Regulation Research Network Seminar

Tuesday 1 August 2017


  • Dr Alan Renwick

About the Seminar:

Recent election and referendum campaigns in the United Kingdom and elsewhere have raised serious concerns about the quality of campaign discourse. Misinformation has been widespread and voters have struggled to know what to make of campaigners’ claims.

In response, the Constitution Unit at University College London is conducting research that will feed into an Independent Commission on Referendums, which will explore potential policy solutions. Dr Alan Renwick is in Australia and New Zealand to conduct a portion of that research.

Three basic approaches to improving discourse quality have been tried: banning inaccurate claims (as is attempted most extensively in South Australia and also, in the final days of campaigns, in New Zealand); creating an authoritative source of accurate information (as happens to varying degrees and in varying ways in several polities, including New Zealand, Ireland and the Netherlands); and creating opportunities for structured citizen deliberation (as in Oregon and some other US states).

In this seminar, Dr Renwick will present preliminary findings and seek the perspective of an Australian audience.

About the Speaker:

Dr Alan Renwick is the Deputy Director of the Constitution Unit at University College London. His research focuses on the institutions through which citizens can engage in democratic decision making, such as electoral systems, referendums, and deliberative assemblies. His books include The Politics of Electoral Reform (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Faces on the Ballot: The Personalization of Electoral Systems in Europe (Oxford University Press, 2016, coauthored with JeanBenoit Pilet). He is currently Director of Research for the Independent Commission on Referendums and Director of the Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit.

Joo-Cheong Tham and Alan Renwick
Professor Joo-Cheong Tham and Professor Alan Renwick