'It wasn't The Sun wot won it'

Sun splash on election day 1992

A new study has found that red-tops have little effect on readers’ decision at the ballot box – putting paid to one of tabloid journalism’s most extravagant headline claims.

Dr Neil Gavin, from the University of Liverpool, and Essex University’s David Sanders studied the influence of economic news in the British press during the Nineties on voting intentions.

Unveiling their findings last week, Dr Gavin said they had found that although "there is still room for the notion that the press makes a significant contribution to the formation of public opinion", this influence is confined to mid-market newspapers and broadsheets.

"The Government should be less concerned about the bluster of red-tops," he said.

"It is clear that economic coverage has a measurable impact on some segments of the population, but it is equally clear this influence only extends to the black-tops and broadsheets."

"It wasn’t ‘The Sun Wot Won It’," said Dr Gavin, referring to the paper’s page-one claim after the 1992 election. "The red-tops obviously think they influence people’s attitudes, but in fact they don’t influence anyone’s anything," he added.

The research also claimed papers are least likely to influence readers during General Election campaigns, because this is when voters are most irritated by political coverage.

By Ben Glaze

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