Media coverage of last year’s election

Daily Ireland reports some interesting research on the coverage of the general and local election held on 5th May last year. It highlights some headline figures from research conducted by the Institute of Governance at Queen’s.

Unsurprisingly Daily Ireland gave by far the largest percentage of coverage to nationalist parties of any other of the other three main papers – with an even split between the SDLP and Sinn Fein each getting 48%.

However the research does not assess whether the coverage was positive or negative. So it is impossible to draw any conclusions on the positive or negative bias towards one party or the other. The UUP virtually fell off Daily Ireland’s radar.

Though it has to be said that the Newsletter virtually ignored the two nationalist parties. By far the greatest balance in coverage, at least in terms of mentions, was provided by the Irish News.

Regarding the local press:

…the local weekly papers were more likely to cover the local elections than were the Northern Ireland dailies. The local press was also more likely to cover ‘socio-economic’ issues in their coverage of both the UK Parliamentary election and local government election. They were also more likely to devote space to the smaller parties. The research suggested that the interviews conducted with party leaders on BBC’s Hearts and Minds concentrated on constitutional issues to the detriment of ‘socio-economic’ issues.

The report also contains a short report by The Pollen Shop on the dessemination of party literature. It found:

…the five main political parties in Northern Ireland were less likely to provide information in accessible formats than the major parties in Great Britain. Yhis may have been due to the fact that many smaller parties across the UK did not have the systems or structures in place to ensure communication tools such as websites or helplines provide for the needs of disabled people or those with low levels of literacy.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty