Campaigner Survey

Welcome to the Sheila McKechnie Foundation’s fourth annual Campaigner Survey

Every year we publish a snapshot of what the world is like for campaigners and change-makers.

Campaigning – We know ‘campaigning’ means different things to different people. For the survey, we see campaigning as any activity designed to create change, whether to policy, law, attitudes or behaviours.

Civil society – We are interested in campaigning by civil society. This includes charities, non-profit-making groups (including community enterprises), or volunteers, who act collectively or individually to press for change.

Our fourth survey was the biggest yet. Just under 200 change-makers, from organisations big and small, shared their thoughts about the environment they are working in.

What does the 2019 Campaigner Survey say about civil society and campaigning? 

Civil society regaining its confidence to campaign

The results from our latest Annual Campaigner Survey show that, after years of feeling the ‘chilling effect’ of legislation and media narratives, civil society organisations are starting to be more confident in campaigning to achieve their mission.

Green shoots. This year, nearly a third of respondents (30%) say things have got better for campaigning in the last year.

What is helping? People said they thought things had get better for campaigning because of:

Increased public action (e.g. XR, #MeToo, Brexit) “Campaigners like Greta Thunberg are motivating a new generation of campaigners.”

More collaboration: “As a sector we have a louder stronger voice, we are working more collaboratively on the issues that matter the most.”

New Electoral Commission guidance: “…[it’s] still not a great situation but the recent Electoral Commission guidance … makes it clear that charity campaigning is welcome and legitimate”

What is not helping? Where they told us things had got worse, they mentioned:

Politicians and public are distracted by political upheaval and Brexit: “Brexit has sucked the life out of policy makers for anything else”

A hostile environment for campaigning (attitudes of politicians and regulators): “The ongoing polarisation of UK society and the dismissing of evidence-based policy-making is also affecting the ability to campaign effectively.”

Lack of funding:due to cuts many civil society groups are keeping heads down”

Organisation attitudes:I feel like many organisations have just given up and don’t want to rock the boat”

Concern about the legitimacy of campaigning seems to be lifting. Fewer people than last year believe the legitimacy of campaigning by civil society is under threat, but the figure still stands at a high 87%.

Public and political attitudes are at odds. 48% believe that public attitudes to campaigning have become more positive in the past year, but they report increasingly negative attitudes amongst politicians (45%) and the media (41%).

KarenCampaigner Survey