As the UK gears up for the general election, one-fifth of voters would be happy to vote online, according to new research from Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR). In March, Forrester conducted an online survey of almost 750 UK adults of voting age, assessing their views about interacting with government online and their voting intentions in the forthcoming general election. When asked about how they intended to vote, responses broadly followed recent offline polls but with some unique differences.

“Reflecting figures seen in offline polls, 43% of respondents that expressed a preference said that they would vote for Labour,” said Paul Jackson, Technographics® analyst at Forrester. “Online Labour voters have the lowest average income of supporters of the three major parties, and, unsurprisingly, they are relatively happy with the performance of Tony Blair’s government. The Conservatives attracted 30% of our respondents’ votes. Online Conservatives are slightly older and have considerably higher incomes than supporters of the other parties. In terms of attitude to technology, far more Conservative voters are career-motivated, high-income optimists. The Liberal Democrats polled 21% of the online respondents. This is 30% higher than the level of support that MORI polls show in the population as a whole. Only 49% of Liberal Democrat supporters indicated that they voted in the last general election, compared with a general turnout among the online population of 72%, reflecting disillusionment with the dominant two-party system.”

Half of the respondents indicated that they would be prepared to vote via the Internet in a general election or local election; as 40% of the UK population is online, this implies that one-fifth of all UK voters are ready to use the Internet for voting today — more than have ever shopped online. Respondents were keen for the government to make it possible to carry out online some straightforward but tedious operations, such as updating government records, getting information from government sites, and, importantly, voting. Of the 25% of respondents who did not vote in the last general election, many cited inconvenient polling stations, being too busy, or working late as the reason they had not voted. In contrast, respondents were reluctant to perform online those tasks that involve a degree of confidentiality, such as consulting a GP, or that are complex, such as making a tax return.

“Online voting has a number of potential benefits for the democratic process and the taxpayer — it would save administration costs, increase accuracy rates, and encourage a higher overall turnout,” Jackson added. “But until online access is near universal in the UK, no reductions can be made in the current voting infrastructure — as this would further disadvantage that section of the general public not yet online. Also, with so many vested interests at stake in a general election, it is important that any electronic voting system is not only secure, but is also seen to be secure. This is not yet the case: 56% of the UK online public thinks that personal information is not secure on the Internet. If, as the polls currently predict, a Labour government is returned to power when the general election takes place, it is unlikely to prioritize electronic electoral reform. Our poll shows that the UK online population is skewed toward the Liberal Democrats and that Conservatives would be happiest adopting eVoting. This is one issue Labour should not campaign on this time around.”

The Brief “eVoting: Toward A UK Internet Democracy?” is part of Forrester’s Consumer Technographics Q4 2000 Europe Benchmark Study. Forrester’s Technographics Europe Benchmark program provides continuous quantitative information about consumer attitudes toward, and adoption of, technology. By applying a unique segmentation model to survey data from both Internet users and offline consumers, Technographics offers an innovative way of developing marketing plans for any technology-based product or service.