The Sun’s circulation has fallen 35 per cent since its mid-1990s peak. The trend, in keeping with that of other national newspapers, has come at a time when the Internet has become more influential than TV and newspapers.
According to a News International Circulation Reports Archive, quoted on wikipedia, the “highest ever one-day sale at full price was on 30 March, 1996″ when it hit 4,783,359. This was under a year before The Sun announced their support for Tony Blair.
According to ABC figures reported by NMA UK the average daily circulation in August 2009 was 3,128,501. This is 35 per cent below the mid-1990s peak.
Reaction to The Sun’s decision to back the Conservative Party has focused on whether they lead or follow shifts in public opinion. Roy Greenslade writes:
“The Sun is following its readership, once again seeking to back a surefire winner rather than daring to take any political risk.”
Peter Kellner of YouGov told Sky News
“Although The Sun newspaper is a great weather vane, it doesn’t decide the direction of the wind.”
Sunder Katwala on Next Left quotes academic John Curtice who writes:
“There was little evidence that newspapers had much impact on the aggregate outcome of elections. Between 1987-92 and 1992-5 the net movement of voting preferences amongst the whole electorate was very similar to what happened amongst those who did not read a newspaper at all … when it comes to the outcome of elections, the disposition of the press does not make much difference at all.”
The timing has also come under scrutiny with suggestions that the decision had been made days before Brown made his speech.
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