At tonight’s launch of a Microsoft/Hansard Society report into MPs’ use of the internet, The Times‘s Peter Riddell revealed an interesting snippet of information about YouGov’s panel for its political polls.
YouGov decided it could not do any polls during the Glasgow East by-election because it had only around 100 panel members in the constituency, and they were overwhelmingly public sector workers – i.e. a very atypical cross-section.
As for the report itself:
The findings confirm that the internet is now a part of the day-to-day life of the vast majority of MPs. Email adoption has reached saturation point and the use of websites is commonplace. MPs see digital media as positively supporting their communication with constituents, particularly email and websites, but also the ability to upload rich media, including photographs and video. This adoption pattern continues, albeit at lower levels, for newer digital tools and particularly for Web2.0 technologies, such as social networking. This suggests the potential for greater engagement and closer ties in the future; even if at present social networking remains predominantly a tool to keep constituents informed. The findings suggest that primary motivations for adoption relate to an MP’s majority, length of incumbency and, to some degree, the nature of their constituency (and constituents). We conclude that adoption of the internet is largely down to personal attitudes to technology further affected by the surety or otherwise of the MP’s seat in Parliament. On the downside, digital media is certainly no panacea and MPs report issues with office workload, a desire for more training and challenges in identifying whether those communicating with them are indeed constituents.
The report provides recommendations for MPs, constituents and for Parliament. Primary amongst these are that MPs need to develop a policy for the use of email and strategies for digital media that define the target audience and connect with their offline strategy. Constituents benefit when MPs are online and so citizens are encouraged to promote the internet and provide examples of good practice to break down barriers amongst those MPs who are more resistant. In the digital age democracy can be driven by both sides. Finally, the report recommends a review of the licensing and re-use of content created by Parliament.