Visualising the UK General Election 2015 TV Debates




Co-investigators: Anna de Liddo (Open University), Giles Moss, Paul Wilson

During the 2010 general election the first ever televised leaders' debates to be held in the United Kingdom took place.

A key argument in favour of these televised events was that they could reach a wider audience than is usual for politically-related content and that, after watching them, normally apolitical debate-watchers might be better informed about election issues; more likely to discuss policies with their friends and families; and more likely to vote than those who are not exposed to the debates.

In short, televised election debates perform a heuristic function, providing voters with resources that enable them to carry out their normative role as informed and reflective citizens of a representative democracy.

Research conducted by Coleman et al ("Leaders in the Living Room--The Prime Ministerial Debates of 2010", Oxford: Reuters Institute, 2011) after the 2010 UK debates showed that there was a significant public appetite for this means of learning about the candidates and their policies, but that many viewers were left feeling uncertain about the meaning of what they had witnessed.

This prompted a group of scholars from different disciplines - information science, political communication and design - to get together with a view to exploring how future televised leaders' debates might be made more comprehensible to groups of viewers with specific information needs.

Our aim in this research is to develop an open-source web-based platform that incorporates a suite of visualisation tools and to develop a working model of how this platform can be embedded within a mixed-media ecology for covering and responding to issues of public political debate.  

Publications and outputs

Coleman S. Moss, G. S 2016. Rethinking Election Debates: What Citizens Are Entitled to Expect. International Journal of Press/Politics. 21(1), pp. 3-24

Coleman S, Moss G, & Martinez-Perez A. 2018. Studying Real-Time Audience Responses to Political Messages: A New Research Agenda. International Journal of Communication. 12, pp. 1696-1714

Project website