Biased coverage of Cameron's two-term gaffe involves slippery use of polls
After its incredibly tame first story on David Cameron’s Shredded Wheat remarks, the Sun newspaper has returned to its usual shouty self.
‘PM “right to rule out a third term”‘, it booms, adding: ‘Poll shows Brits like his honesty.’ The paper’s Murdoch stable-mates at the Times’s Red Box have commissioned a YouGov poll in which 55 per cent of respondents said the prime minister was right to rule out a third term.
The Sun says column was silent on the story yesterday. But now, armed with this poll, the paper has found its voice:
“It’s a PR catastrophe, say Labour. A game-changer, say political pundits. […] And guess what? As our poll shows, voters either admire Cameron for it…or they couldn’t care less.“
The reporting is a bit slippery. While only 18 per cent said the move was wrong, 27 per cent said they don’t know. And while 21 per cent said it made them think more positively about Cameron, a whopping 39 per cent said it makes no difference because they already didn’t like him.
Still, as an evidence-based blog, we’re of course pleased to see the Sun take its editorial cues from a YouGov poll, rather than Tory HQ, (even if the paper did commission it themselves). But is this really the case?
Just sticking with YouGov, a poll in 2013 found that 65 per cent of respondents supported a Mansion Tax on homes worth over £2million, with just 22 per cent opposed. A poll in January 2014 found 51 per cent of respondents supported a 50p top rate of income tax, with 26 per cent opposed. A poll in 2013 found 63 per cent of respondents supported a 20-month freeze on energy prices, with 26 per cent opposed.
All of these are Labour party policies. All of them have been opposed by the Sun.
Another YouGov poll from last week found chancellor George Osborne’s much ballyhooed ‘budget bounce’ was far below post-budget support for Labour’s Gordon Brown – though you wouldn’t know it from the coverage.
A YouGov poll in April last year found 56 per cent of respondents supported the redistribution of wealth, rather than increasing overall wealth. And on and on it goes.
How odd that none of these YouGov polls have influenced the editorial line of the newspaper that claims to be the voice of the people.
(While we’re at it, a YouGov poll in 2011 found 60 per cent of respondents believed Sun proprietor Rupert Murdoch has too much influence in British politics…)
Today’s story in the Sun is another example of how the paper’s editorial position comes first, and polling evidence last, with results invoked as public opinion to support the party line.
Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.