POLITICAL online propaganda and misinformation have been on the rise in recent years, fuelled by the widespread use of social media platforms and the ease of spreading misinformation online. Sadly, misinformation can spread quickly and have a significant impact on public opinion, professional standing and political debate.

Political propaganda is increasingly being used to influence or persuade the public to vote for a certain political party by selectively presenting facts, or in some cases misrepresenting them, to persuade them to vote for a particular candidate.

That’s why it is increasingly important for the future of our democracy that residents critically evaluate the information they read online, and the campaign literature that is posted through letterboxes, and where possible seek out reliable sources to verify the accuracy of the information.


After the recent local elections and ahead of the general election I thought it would be worth reflecting on the alarming rise of political propaganda and how its being used to hoodwink the unsuspecting public.

Political propaganda relates to information that is distributed to cause harm and advance a political cause. It is not a new phenomenon. Governments have spread propaganda since ancient times.

The biggest difference today is its reach. Thanks largely to the internet and social media, but also to sections of the media often driven by sensationalist reporting, political propaganda can reach more people faster and far more easily than ever before.

But political propaganda is not just used to mislead people. A key element of propaganda is that it sows distrust, confusing people about what to believe and what not to believe. In the medium and long term, this may turn voters off from political debate altogether because it becomes too hard to figure out what information should be believed and who should be trusted.

This is even more concerning when you take account of the declining availability of independent media in regions through the UK, which means that people without local publications have a much more difficult time getting access to good and accurate reporting.

Political propaganda tends to target the fears and anxiety of the electorate. This is because when people are in fear of losing something, they tend to be highly motivated to vote for those they perceive as protecting the status quo. An example would be where candidates and supporters campaign to save closure of buildings or to prevent loss of services despite those buildings or services never being under threat in the first place.

Political propaganda cannot be successful unless it’s believed, and so it’s critically important that propagandists’ material isn’t seen as irrelevant. They adopt the bandwagon strategy to give others the impression that their position is supported by the majority, which encourages others to support it too. Basically, it’s a rationale along the lines of, “everyone is voting for this candidate, so he/she is the best candidate, so they may be inclined to vote for them simply because of perceived support from others”.

Many people will be members of local social media groups. These are fertile ground for political candidates and their supporters to use this propaganda technique.

The rise of political propaganda certainly poses a significant threat to democratic values and the integrity of public debate. That’s why we all need to remain vigilant and informed, challenging misleading narratives and demanding transparency from those in power or those who seek it.

Only by being truthful and accountable can we protect our democracy for future generations.