PG election poll: 'Public are influenced by journalists, whether they believe it or not'

Pollsters have suggested that a new survey revealing that nine out of ten Britons believe their general election voting decision will be unaffected by any particular news organisation should be taken with a pinch of salt.

The survey, which appears in the April edition of Press Gazette, asked a weighted sample of 1,000 members of the British public whether one particular broadcaster, publication or website will affect their voting decision at the next general election. Ninety per cent said they are not affected by the media when deciding who to vote for.

But Paul Dixon, global managing director at iCD Research, who conducted the survey for Press Gazette, said: “It is important to take consumer-stated intention in any research with a grain of salt. While 90 per cent of the public might consciously state that they won’t be influenced by media when it comes to political voting, they are unaware of subconscious factors and influences”.

He said that iCD have conducted numerous surveys in the past to research public voting habits and the perceptions of political parties and leaders. In a recent investigation, iCD discovered that the top three words associated with David Cameron were “smarmy, false and snobby”. Similarly, a majority described Gordon Brown as “boring”.

“Our qualitative tracking of political intention and opinions of party leaders has shown the impact of media influences and from past experience we believe that the closer to the election, the more influenced the consumer can be, whether they believe it or not”, he said.

Anthony Wells is a political commentator for YouGov, a national opinion pollster organisation. Wells is also the author of the UK Polling Report website.

He said that the survey “almost certainly underestimates the impact of political reporting”.

He said: “The real impact is more subconscious, the long term drip-drip of positive or negative coverage.”

Matthew Festenstein, professor of politics at the University of York, said of political polling: “It is easy to say what you think but harder to assess where your thoughts have come from.”

He added: “It is very easy to say that their votes won’t be changed by what was published but people have to get their information from somewhere and that is what the media does. So it comes back to where your opinions came from in the first place.”

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