Findings on the accessibility of facts and figures

The findings for the question “where do you usually see facts and figures about people in the UK?” has been categorised by sub-theme and reported with quotes to illustrate points and provide deeper insight.

The type of facts and figures people access

Some participants appreciated that [facts and figures are often] presented as part of news stories and tend to be framed with an explanation about the context of data and why it’s being used (Man, 38, digitally impoverished) and that [the news] predominantly portrays statistics to inform the public audience (Woman, 36, lacking digital skills).

Some participants mentioned specific interest areas, such as health-related research and information on society and the economy. It was also reported that the news has been dominated by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and that these are the main facts and figures that they had seen over the last few months.

“I research independently on the likelihood of certain diseases, and the population of people in the UK infected with universally afflicting disorder which are very common.” (Woman, 36, lacking digital skills).

“At the moment [fact and figures] tend to be mainly comparative figures. Covid, or employment and financial based on the pandemics effect on the UK.” (Woman, 67, lacking digital infrastructure).

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Source of information and trust in different sources

In discussing the sources used to access information such as facts and figures, participants mentioned the following:

  • newspapers and news programmes (both television and radio; national and local)
  • websites (such as GOV.UK)
  • social media
  • friends and family (word of mouth)
  • libraries
  • GP surgery (posters)
  • magazines
  • advertisements on public transport
  • leaflets and informational material delivered by post

Participants noted seeing and hearing facts and figures in newspapers and radio stations, both locally and nationally.

“I live in a small community. I concentrate on what I can affect and influence on local issues and my community.” (Woman, 54, lacking digital infrastructure).

There was also some reference to national media sources such as the BBC and ITV. When talking about specific sources, participants acknowledged the value of having information clearly explained by specialists and through trusted sources.

“I have always trusted the BBC they invite many specialists to explain the information. I like things explained in simple terms.” (Man, 64, digitally impoverished).

But others were less likely to accept news and data at face value:

“It is regulated information based on someone who makes decisions on what I (and the public) ‘need’ to know.” (Woman, 54, lacking digital infrastructure).

“Can these facts and figures be trusted though?” (Woman, 56, lacking digital skills).

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Using the internet and social media

Some participants noted that they use the internet to look for specific facts and figures. This suggests that even those who are digitally excluded may have some access to the internet. For example, some participants said they would go to a library or use someone else’s smartphone to look for further information in topics of interest.

“If I was particularly interested in something, I would use the Internet to find out more information.” (Woman, 55, lacking digital infrastructure).

“If I wanted to see a particular thing I would go on the internet and type into Google.” (Woman, 45, Lacking digital infrastructure).

Some participants only noted the internet as their source of facts and figures about the UK. Their sources included news apps, internet searches and online news websites.

“I usually see facts and figures on digital platforms and websites, usually governmental statistics as I hold them in the most highest and reliable regards.” (Woman, 36, lacking digital skills).

The GOV.UK website was specifically mentioned as a source of information, both for general facts and figures and more specifically, the Ethnicity Facts and Figures platform. Some participants suggested it is an important source of information where they could find out about a range of different topics.

“GOV.UK is usually my first port of call. This is because it encompasses and includes a multitude of areas so I am usually able to find the information I am looking for.” (Woman, 57, lacking digital skills).

Some participants reported seeing facts and figures on social media platforms and tended to refer to “social media” generally but there were also specific references to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

“Social media – LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.” (Man, 51, digitally impoverished).

“Facebook mainly, links of news on Facebook.” (Man, 60, lacking digital infrastructure).

However, when referencing social media, the accuracy and reliability of facts and figures through these channels was questioned.

“Take with a pinch of salt as lots of fake news posted.” (Man, 71, lacking digital infrastructure).

“Hearsay on social media that I follow up to verify facts.” (Man, 60, lacking digital infrastructure).

Alternatively, one participant made explicit reference to not using the internet to look at social media, suggesting, I do not use the internet for this purpose (Man, 77, digitally impoverished). The need for different forms of communication to accommodate a range of needs was also noted.

“Rarely is anything sent out in the post. Not all people have access to the internet and not all people are able to read.” (Woman, 60, digitally impoverished).

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Additional sources

Word of mouth, including from friends, family, and social groups, was another source mentioned for hearing about facts and figures.

“My family and friends keep me informed of anything I want to know.” (Woman, 72, digitally impoverished).

“I usually get most of my information from TV news but I also attend some groups and I get a lot of information from the other women who attend. We sometimes have political and charity visitors who give us good information. I also have children and grandchildren.” (Woman, 79, lacking digital skills).

Some other additional sources mentioned by participants include the electoral role, credit consumer sites, the census, ancestry sites, libraries, public transport, leaflets in the post, adverts, magazines, and journals.

“Sometimes in the doctors surgery there are statistics on the posters to encourage people to get checked for things or for people like carers to register and get help.” (Woman, 25, lacking digital infrastructure).

“There are also facts and figures sometimes on information leaflets that are posted through the door.” (Woman, 55, lacking digital infrastructure).

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