What influence have newsbrands had in the 2015 General Election?
What influence have newsbrands had in the 2015 General Election?
A view from Denise Turner

What influence have newsbrands had in the 2015 General Election?

With the election just a week away, the second in Newsworks' series of election trackers looks at the influence of newsbrands - can they really impact the election outcome when there are so many different sources of information out there? Denise Turner reports.

With just a week to go before the election, it seems that everything is being thrown at the campaign in order to influence how people are going to vote. Everything that is, apart from the kitchen sink (although there have been a number of articles in the last few weeks describing this as the kitchen-sink election, with politicians being interviewed in that room!).

Newsworks' last election blog talked about people getting their election news from a range of different sources. Arguably the role of media is to lay the facts - and their interpretation of them - before the British public who then make their own decisions.

The question of how much those facts and their interpretation influences people is a whole different area. Influence is difficult to measure accurately. We know that in research people are notoriously loathe to admit that media or advertising has any kind of influence on their decisions. Moreover, a lot of our influences come from our subconscious, and past learned patterns of thinking, which we are not aware of most of the time.

Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist from UCL, explains: "The brain has evolved... to see the world in a way that proved useful in the past. It constructs what it knows by searching for useful patterns in sensory information and then associating those patterns with a past record of their behavioural relevance, and then using that information to guide behaviour."

So we must be careful when asking people whether media has influenced the way they are going to vote. Such a question can provide an indicator of the role that media plays in influencing the outcome, especially when we are on course for another very close contest and a hung parliament. As part of our ongoing election tracker we asked people whether any of the places they have been getting election information from have had an influence on the way they are going to vote.

We were particularly interested in the influence of newsbrands - can they really impact the election outcome, when there are so many different sources of information out there? Newsbrands are continuing to play an important role in laying the facts before people, with one in two adults saying they are turning to them.

Encouragingly that score holds true for our young first time voters, with 52% going to newsbrands for election information. But what about influence? Is the information and opinions being presented in newsbrands impacting voting intentions? Of all of our respondents who say they turn to newsbrands, 31% of them say what they read is influencing how they will vote next Thursday.

And for our information-hungry young first time voters that figure rises to 39%. Given that we know people are reluctant to say media influences them, these numbers are encouragingly high. So on the day when The Sun has laid its election cards on the table, it would seem that newsbrands do still have a role to play in influencing the outcome of the election, as people absorb and digest the facts put before them.

Denise Turner is insight director at Newsworks