Leveson analysis: Sun may have won it, but it’s difficult to prove
IT’S quite difficult to get the readers of a newspaper to vote for a particular political party and there’s not much evidence that papers have a great say in the outcome of an election.
The Sun in 1992 strongly backed the Tories and the newspaper had a memorable headline saying that “It’s the Sun wot won it”. However, a survey of Sun readers a year after that election found that a lot of the readers didn’t know the Sun had spent the whole election ridiculing the then Labour leader Neil Kinnock. It hadn’t entered their consciousness.
At the same time what newspapers are really good at is setting the agenda and what will be the issues that dominate an election, as well as portraying a certain image of politicians in the public mind.
David Cameron was portrayed as a dynamic and charismatic politician at the last election in the same way that Tony Blair was before the 1997 election. At the moment Ed Miliband is being portrayed as a politician with a lack of charisma. Newspapers also promote adversarial politics by saying that it’s this guy versus this guy at an election.
Most politicians are more worried about what’s on the front page of a tabloid than they are about what’s on radio programmes. Also, if we look at the SNP winning the support of the Sun at the last Scottish Parliament elections, we see an example of a Murdoch paper doing what it normally does and backing a winner that allows it to say we were instrumental in this victory.
• Dr Michael Higgins is the subject leader for journalism and creative writing at the University of Strathclyde.
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