This project studies if data-driven campaigns using online microtargeting techniques are a threat to democracy. The consortium will focus on both the intended and unintended consequences of data-driven targeting and digital persuasion. In light of ongoing political and societal turmoil, investigating how citizens may be persuaded in a turbulent age and in a changing media landscape has never been more important. The studies will focus on micro (consequences for citizens), meso (consequences for political elites), and macro level effects (consequences for democracy).
The project’s main research questions are:
- How do organizations shape election campaigns by targeting potential voters online during elections?
- What are the constitutional and legislative frameworks shaping the extent and nature of data-driven campaigning in European countries?
- How are data-driven targeting practices perceived?
- To what extent do data-driven targeting practices actually affect voters?
The project extends and empirically tests a theoretical framework of data-driven campaigning, while using a mixture of research methods and a comparative perspective. The project will offer a deeper understanding of online data-driven targeting techniques during elections in the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, and United Kingdom.