NEWS15 September 2015

Traditional media outshines social for political influence

News UK

UK — Despite politicians increasingly turning to social media to engage with voters, the general public still rely on traditional media sources to find out about political issues, according to research from the Market Research Society (MRS) conducted by TNS.


In celebration of the UN’s International Democracy Day, the think tank MRS Delphi Group has explored factors influencing voter engagement in the UK.

Almost three quarters of those questioned ( 73%) use TV to stay informed, while 54% cite newspapers and 52% online news outlets to shape their political views. This compares with less than a third ( 27%) using Facebook, 18% YouTube and 15% Twitter. 

So despite increased focus on social media channels, traditional media still dominates, with 81% of us using some form of traditional media (TV, newspapers, online news and radio) compared with 34% relying on social media (Facebook, YouTube or Twitter).

However, interviews among young researchers (members of MRS’s RNet network) suggested that many young voters use both media sources, often turning to social media for secondary opinions, to build a broader picture.

And it appears that national and local issues, rather than European or global ones, are most likely to influence how we vote. Almost half ( 46%) are influenced ‘a lot’ by UK issues when we vote, falling to 22% who are influenced significantly by European issues and only 17% by global ones. 

Tim Britton, former UK CEO at YouGov, said: “Localism also definitely has a part to play here, particularly in northern England and Scotland where around a third of respondents said local and regional issues were very influential. Elsewhere, it’s around 25% of us that give local issues such precedence.”

Jane Frost, MRS’ chief executive and founder of the MRS Delphi Group, said: “What’s striking is how the perception of trust varies – some respondents trusted traditional journalism and discounted social media as too opinion-based, while others felt recent events had actually left trust in the mainstream media establishment severely undermined. The result is that voters are no longer taking any one source at face value.”

This research was conducted among a representative sample of 1218 adults (aged 18+) across the UK by TNS’ online omnibus service between 18th and 20th August 2015. For further details