CORDIS - EU research results

Hunting for Voters: The Impact of Data-Driven Campaigning on Democracy

Project description

A closer look at political microtargeting

Persuading voters is at the heart of any political campaign. Advances in technology are offering new opportunities for candidates to reach out to voters. Political campaigns today are combining data-driven voter research with personalised political advertising and using online microtargeting techniques. In this context, the ERC-funded HUNTING project will explore whether these techniques are a threat to democracy. It will study the effects of data-driven microtargeting and digital persuasion to identify under which conditions and to what extent they affect citizens’ attitudes, opinions and vote decisions. Using a mix of research methods and taking a comparative perspective, the project will assess the benefits and risks.


Data-driven political campaigns are on the rise. Concerns have been voiced that practices like online political microtargeting techniques are harmful for democracy. These concerns grew after the unexpected outcome of the US presidential elections in 2016, the Brexit vote in the UK, and several recent elections in Europe. However, it is unclear if data-driven campaigns using online microtargeting techniques are an actual threat to democracy. The project will focus on the consequences of data-driven targeting and digital persuasion. In light of ongoing political and societal turmoil, investigating how citizens may be persuaded in a changing media landscape has never been of more importance. The overarching objective of this project is to identify the conditions and the extent to which data-driven online political microtargeting affect citizens’ attitudes and opinions, and eventually voting behavior. The project addresses three research questions: To what extent and under which conditions does data-driven political targeting have a beneficial impact, and under which conditions a harmful impact on democracy? And how can the beneficial effects trump the harmful effects? The project is novel as it systematically analyses the impact of data-driving campaigning, providing a theoretical dual-processing model, while using a mixture of research methods and a comparative perspective. As a whole, the project will offer a deeper understanding of the global impact of online data-driven targeting techniques during elections in several countries.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 376 377,06
6708 PB Wageningen

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Oost-Nederland Gelderland Veluwe
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 376 377,06

Beneficiaries (2)