Ipsos Mori survey shows comms preferred way to tackle behaviour

New research has revealed that communication remains the most popular method of behaviour change used by governments, for publics across the world.

Kicking the habit: The UK smoking ban was preceded by comms campaigns
Kicking the habit: The UK smoking ban was preceded by comms campaigns

A global report by Ipsos Mori into public opinion of behaviour change policy has revealed that people across the world have pointed to the provision of information as the biggest government behaviour change tactic, at 92 per cent.

Mandatory legislation was at 62 per cent, and making behaviour more expensive or difficult was at 69 per cent.

The research comes as the Department of Health is paying £1m per year to Freud Communications to provide behaviour change comms around tobacco control, obesity and the other main dangers to health.

The report also points to the importance of comms campaigns in preparing the ground for subsequent legislative enforcement, such as the UK and Ireland’s smoking bans. It reads: ‘These smoking bans [in the UK and Ireland] were preceded by years of softer interventions from comms campaigns, price mechanisms, more targeted bans on smoking on transport, seeing public space bans introduced in other countries and so on.’

Ipsos Mori surveyed 18,500 adults across 24 countries about their attitudes to different types of behaviour change mechanisms, focusing on smoking, unhealthy foods, saving for retirement and living in an environmentally sustainable way.

How I See it

Jenny Grey, executive director for government comms
Unsurprisingly, it seems citizens prefer governments to influence people’s behaviour through information rather than taxation or regulation.

In practice, successful behaviour change programmes in areas like tobacco control or road safety have combined a variety of measures, often including iconic comms campaigns, and have been sustained in the long term.

Better policy design, incorporating the principles of ‘nudge theory’, is also vital. For example, automatically enrolling people on to workplace pension schemes is likely to be more successful than a comms campaign alone, however persuasive the messages.

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