Media in Context

Here you can find information about the ESRC-funded project ‘Media in Context and the 2015 General Election: How Traditional Media Shape Elections and Governing’, its output, data and our research team. You may also want to take a look at our blog and follow our updates and news.

Why study media in the context of the 2015 General Election?
In the last two General Elections, the leading parties formed governments with roughly 35 percent of the vote. The 2015 Election promised a similar scenario, including the possibility of another coalition. When combined with weak partisan attachments in the electorate and a media landscape in flux, media reporting and framing of the campaign was critical to public opinion and to the election’s dynamics and aftermath. The campaign involved debates, including leaders’ debates, on major constitutional issues pertaining to national and regional devolution and their consequences for Westminster, as well as the possibility of a referendum on continuing EU membership, and all took place in a context of continuing austerity. Despite the seemingly tight race and the expectations of the main media outlets, pollsters and election forecasters, the Conservative Party won the majority of seats in the House of Commons and formed the new Government.
Understanding the political and social developments and their impacts on the election campaign and the outcome of the General Election make the study of British media timely and essential.

Our project examines four issues surrounding these socio-political developments and the media in the context of the 2015 General Election:
1. The changes to the traditional models of flows of campaign communication, from elites to opinion leaders to masses, and their declining importance in influencing political opinions and behaviour;
2. The changing media landscape and sources of political information (e.g., declining newspaper readership and trust traditional media alongside the increase in use of social media);
3. The role of the media, both social and traditional, in the post-election period in response to electoral outcomes that affect governance, such as the development of consent and trust;
4. The development of causal framework in interpreting the effects of media on the General Election and its outcomes.

In order to address these issues, we build a unique data set of coverage of the 2015 General Election starting from the launch of manifestos and including the entire election campaign and the period of six weeks after the Election Day (February to May 2015). You can find the resulting data in the ‘Research output’ section of this website.
The data on the General Election and post-election coverage includes the content of the following outlets:
• National media;
• Regional and local media across a range of constituencies;
• Social media (blogs and Twitter feeds of opinion leaders).
This data can be linked to the 2015 British Election Study (Wave 4-6), which provides an account of the information context in which voters are mobilised and develop preferences and trust, and in which political actors react and governments are formed. Additionally, we have conducting an online experiment to examine causal linkages between media exposure, information seeking, and attitudes in constituencies with varying contexts.

The team
Dan Stevens, Susan Banducci, Travis Coan, Gabriel Katz-Wisel, Iulia Cioroianu, Ekaterina Kolpinskaya, John Ault – all from the University of Exeter

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