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Understanding attitudes to data & AI

The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation (CDEI) is an expert directorate within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). It leads the UK government’s work to enable trustworthy data-driven innovation to thrive. Its multidisciplinary team of specialists, and expert advisory board, work in partnership with organisations to develop trustworthy approaches to AI and data governance, and remove barriers to responsible innovation. It is committed to ensuring that citizens have a voice in how data and data-driven technologies are governed. Developing a deep understanding of public attitudes towards data and AI in the UK is a core component of its work.

The Challenge

Savanta ComRes was commissioned to explore public attitudes towards data and AI and how these change over time, the first tracker of its kind in the UK.

It was essential that our research incorporated the views of a broad range of people, given the CDEI’s goal of providing citizens with a voice in data governance. This meant reaching out to ‘digitally excluded’ individuals who are harder to reach.

To truly understand the public’s views, it was important to not only track what public attitudes are over time, but also to explore the ‘why’ — to identify the priorities and motivations underlying these attitudes.

Our approach

We took a mixed-mode quantitative approach to ensure that our findings reflected a broad spectrum of society. A demographically representative sample of over 4,000 UK adults completed our online survey, with a further 200 ‘digitally excluded’ adults surveyed via Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) to ensure that the views of those who lack digital skills or confidence were heard.

Advanced analytics were utilised to facilitate a deeper understanding of the data. We analysed results by level of digital skills and confidence, in order to identify the priorities, concerns and attitudes of different user groups. A conjoint experiment designed by the CDEI was also incorporated, which revealed that levels of trust in different organisations or actors bears strongly upon willingness to share data.

The outcome

The resultant ‘Public Attitudes to Data and AI’ report was published via the GOV.UK website, with the results well-received by organisations across the public sector, industry and academia. With the research set to be repeated at consistent intervals, the survey will be a vital resource for those seeking to understand how public attitudes towards the use of data and AI change over time.

‘Savanta provided us with expert guidance and dedicated a great deal of time and effort into producing a report that had a high impact. Understanding public attitudes for abstract topics such as data, AI and trust is a difficult task to which Savanta was highly adaptable. With a complex ask, including large online and telephone samples, alongside free text, conjoint analysis and tracking data, Savanta handled the delivery of our needs with confidence and efficiency.’

Public Attitudes Team at CDEI