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How Big Really Is The Media's Influence On Elections?

How Big Really Is The Media's Influence On Elections?

The media undoubtedly has influence on public perception and how people view the world of politics. The mainstream media can demonise politicians or promote them and due to the amount of people who see this information elections may well be swayed by what the press are telling them. However, some argue that it’s simply naive to say that people are influenced to this extent by others and ultimately people make their own judgement down to there own views and experiences. There are also many other factors that may sway elections such as the effectiveness of the campaign, the performance of the previous governments, the strength of opposition, current events and the opinions of the local MP. This all means it’s very hard to determine how influential the media really is in election results.

In the lead-up to the 1992 election ‘the Sun’ had been relentless in a drive to turn voters away from Neil Kinnocks labour party. On election day ‘the Sun’ published a paper with the headline “if Kinnock wins today will the last person leaving Britain turn off the lights”. Despite Labour being the largest party in nearly every poll, the conservative party, under John Major, won a parliamentary majority in a shock result. This lead to ‘the Sun’ publishing the heading “It’s the sun what won it” implying that is was their headline on the morning of election day which swung the result. So are newspapers really that incredibly influential on the voting population.

‘The Sun’ is Britain’s most read paper with 6.1 million people reading it from Monday – Saturday with a further 5.7 million people reading the Sunday addition. In every election from 1945 to 2005 the political party which the Sun endorsed went on to win that general election excluding the 1951, 1955, 1959 and 1970 elections. This makes it very difficult to argue against the influence that the Sun has on election results, probably down to the amount of people who read and are therefore influenced by it’s content. It’s also clear to see that readers of certain Newspapers tend to affiliate themselves with a particular political party depending on who they endorse. In the 2017 election readers of the conservative backing Daily Mail, Telegraph, Express, Sun and Times all voted Conservative with 79% of Telegraph readers voting for the blues with only a mere 12% backing Labour. Readers of the Labour backing Guardian and Mirror were much more likely to vote Labour which supports the trend. 73% of Guardian voters backed Corbyn’s regime with only 8% voting for May. This is clear evidence supporting the argument that you vote for whoever is endorsed by the paper you read – you are massively influenced by what you are told whether you like it or not.

However, some may say this is a falsehood as you are more likely to read a newspaper which is in line with your views meaning it does not influence your voting behaviour, your voting behaviour decides which paper you read. As well as this there are many other influencing factors in the way that people vote in elections such as the performance in the last election, which makes it very hard to gauge the influence of the media. In 2010 Gordan Browns Labour party lost the election. Brown was portraited very poorly in the mainstream papers, one example was him being pictured in front of a Swastika. This meant some said that media lost the election for him. However, in 2008, the country under the Labour party went into an economic recession. This lead to mass unemployment, stagnant wages and lots of borrowing so this would have been another key influencing factor affecting how people voted. The Conservatives also ran a very good campaign with David Cameron detoxifying the tory brand after them being labelled “the nasty party” during the 2000’s. As well as this he played on the fact that Labour has always been bad with the economy telling voters that they can’t be trusted despite Labour arguing that Brown had been at very little fault in the world economic crash and was instrumental in helping the world economy to recover. On top of this David Cameron was very popular and media savvy which has always appealed to the British populations. As we can see there were many influencing factors which support the view that it’s impossible to gauge how influential the media really is.

In Conclusion, the media is a very powerful tool in the opinions of certain people. The electorate read what journalists are telling them which in turn leads to many people thinking and considering what they have been told. Some argue that this has the power to influence people’s perceptions and alter what they believe in. However, others say that this is very naïve and people’s political influences aren’t swung by what they read about in the paper. There are also many other influencing factors that affect the outcomes of elections such as the campaign, performance of the previous government and even the party leaders, leading some to argue it’s simply too shallow to say that the media has much of a hold on election results. In contrast others say that it’s the media who ultimately influence the voters. They can sway opinions on which campaign to trust, how effective the previous government was and how impressive a leader is. So, it’s clear that there are arguments for and against the strength of media influence leaving it very difficult to come to a definitive conclusion. Despite this one thing is for certain; the paper you read really does link to the party you vote for.

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