Research reveals unacceptable abuse and intimidation towards election candidates

Elections / Tue 4th Jun 2024 at 04:54pm

NEW research conducted by the Electoral Commission has uncovered significant levels of abuse faced by candidates in the May 2024 elections.

In England, 43% of candidates surveyed reported experiencing some kind of abuse or intimidation, with 10% describing it as a serious problem. This increased to 56% when respondents were presented with a list of specific scenarios, such as receiving physical threats or threats towards family, staff or friends.

The issue was particularly severe among women candidates, with 56% avoiding campaigning alone, compared to 19% of men. Nearly half (47%) of the women who responded avoided discussing controversial topics to keep themselves safe, compared to 20% of men who responded.  

Ahead of the general election, the Electoral Commission is calling for a campaign free from abuse.

Today, we have published updated guidance which outlines the actions and behaviours that may constitute a criminal offence. We urge candidates to report these to the police, and campaigners to talk to their staff and volunteers about the importance of safe campaigning.

Vijay Rangarajan, Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission, said: 

“Campaigning is vital to our democracy and usually carried out respectfully. However, our research shows that far too many candidates are facing harassment and abuse.

“This can deter candidates from campaigning or standing altogether, significantly impacting voter choice and access to information.

“Threats of violence, unwanted contact, and discriminatory abuse are illegal. With the police we are today publishing safe campaigning guidelines, and we are working together to raise awareness. We urge campaigners to talk to their teams about what they can do.”

The Commission gathers and analyses data on candidate intimidation and will continue to monitor and share its findings to inform a wider understanding of the threats facing candidates.

Su Moore, Chief Executive of the Jo Cox Foundation, said: 

“Through the Jo Cox Civility Commission, we highlighted how abuse and intimidation of politicians negatively affects democracy in the UK and this new research reveals the scale of abuse in our elections, with particularly stark figures on how it is impacting women candidates.

“We all have a responsibility for changing the perception that elected representatives are acceptable targets of abuse and intimidation. For candidates standing in the General Election, we have launched a Civility Pledge in collaboration with Compassion in Politics, which we are urging all candidates to sign as a commitment to running a respectful campaign.”

Temporary Assistant Commissioner Nik Adams, from the City of London Police and the NPCC portfolio lead for elections, said: 

“Our democracy can be harmed if our elections are undermined, and this can happen in a number of ways. Firstly, during campaigns and the run up to elections; threats, intimation and hate can undermine people’s willingness to stand, and it can also undermine free speech and free debate.

“Secondly, during elections themselves, coupled with fraud and abuse of the rules, this can undermine a sense of fairness and people’s willingness to vote, and it can change voting behaviours, intentions and outcomes.

“That’s why it is really important that police forces across the country work together with partners to tackle these issues.”

Doug Chalmers, Chair of the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, said: 

“Intimidation and abuse of candidates is unacceptable and damages our democracy. We want robust debate, we want people from all backgrounds to step into public life and we want an election where we can hear about the policies being put forward.

“Intimidation and abuse matters to us all as it damages these outcomes – we must call it out whenever we see it.”

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2 Comments for Research reveals unacceptable abuse and intimidation towards election candidates:

2024-06-06 18:39:31

Most of the abuse came from fellow candidates

2024-06-07 19:39:25

Just because someone does not agree with your polocies , they should not suffer abuse , who's to say the abuser is correct. Respect all views , that's called democracy.

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