About the Project
Election leaflets play a central role in British general election campaigns. They tell prospective voters what political parties – and their candidates – stand for, how they will serve their local communities and the nation, and they provide information about a party’s chances of success. Even with the rise of social media, traditional election leaflets remain the most common way that citizens engage with politicians during a general election campaign. More voters report receiving a leaflet than any other type of campaign contact, and political parties spend more money on designing and distributing election leaflets and other unsolicited communications than on any other campaign activity.
Despite the importance of election leaflets, we know very little about the nature of these communications. Citizens across the country receive thousands of leaflets and direct mail from political parties at election time. But because parties often target these materials to particular voters and constituencies, we don’t necessarily know what parties are talking about elsewhere. The OpenElections project aims to increase the transparency of British general elections by allowing citizens to analyse what political parties and candidates talk about in their election leaflets across the country. Visit our Leaflets page – we have more than 8,000 leaflets for you to explore.
OpenElections is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, but it is powered by you. You can help us by uploading new leaflets or by using our coding tool to help us identify the messages contained in the leaflets. Together we can increase the transparency of our elections – one leaflet at a time.
Meet the Researchers
- Prof Caitlin Milazzo
- Professor of Politics, University of Nottingham
Professor Caitlin Milazzo is an expert in British elections and candidate behaviour. She is the co-author of UKIP: Inside the Campaign to Redraw the Map of British Politics, an influential study on UKIP’s 2015 campaign, as well as numerous journal articles on electoral politics in Britain and beyond. Professor Milazzo has a keen interest in British election leaflets. She created the British Election Leaflet Project at the University of Nottingham in 2014 with the goal of producing an innovative and large-scale dataset on leaflet messaging.
- Dr Siim Trumm
- Associate Professor, University of Nottingham
Dr Siim Trumm is an expert in electoral campaigns and political representation. He is a Co-Investigator on the ESRC funded “Out of touch and out of time? A cross-temporal and cross-level analysis of the social and ideological distance between UK voters and political elites” project, and the author on numerous journal articles on elections in Britain and beyond. Dr Trumm has undertaken several elite surveys to improve our understanding of who runs for parliament and how they campaign. He currently conducts both the Welsh Candidate Study as well as the Estonian Candidate Study.
- Dr Joshua Townsley
- Research Fellow, University of Nottingham
Dr Joshua Townsley’s research on elections and political behaviour has been published in journals such as Electoral Studies, Political Science Research and Methods, Political Studies, Parliamentary Affairs, the Journal of Experimental Political Science, and Acta Politica. Previously, Dr Townsley managed the Democratic Dashboard voter information project based at the London School of Economics, and has worked on national election campaigns.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where does the data come from?
Images of election leaflets received by citizens across the country are photographed and uploaded to ElectionLeaflets.org.uk, run by Democracy Club, or directly to OpenElections.co.uk. Our team has coded thousands of election leaflets distributed since the 2010 general election for you to explore in our archive.
Do you have all the leaflets distributed in a general election?
Unfortunately, no. While our archive includes a large number – and a wide range – of electoral communications, this is not a complete count of leaflets distributed during the campaign. Many of the leaflets that are distributed are of the same design, distributed to households across the country, but we acknowledge that our data captures only a small portion of all leaflets distributed.
How are you funded?
OpenElections is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation.
How can I contribute to the project?
Our project relies on the help of citizens like you! Help us code new leaflets for the archive by clicking on ‘code a leaflet’ at the top of the website. You will be shown some images of an election leaflet. Using the options on the side, you can select what messages and issues the leaflet mentions. We have provided short descriptors that appear as you hover over the issue area to help. You can also upload any leaflets you receive by clicking on ‘upload a leaflet’ at the top of the website.
I have found an error with the coding, what should I do?
If you have found an error with the coding of a leaflet, you can contact us by selecting ‘Report a Problem’ under the leaflet’s details.
How should I cite the data?
Milazzo, C., Trumm, S., Townsley, J. 2020. OpenElections Leaflet Data, 2010-2019. Nottingham, UK.
I’m a journalist, can I use data or images from OpenElections?
OpenElections is a rich resource for journalists who cover election campaigns to see what parties and candidates are talking about ‘on the ground’ across Britain. To find out more, email us at email@example.com.