It wasn't the Sun wot won it: official

The ability of the press to influence voting patterns has been found to be marginal, writes John Rentoul

Newspapers have no measurable effect on the way their readers intend to vote, a study has found.

Casting doubt on the Sun's claim that "It's the Sun wot won it" at the last election, research suggests that the calls last year by normally Conservative papers for John Major to go, and the move by the Sun to a less hostile posture towards Labour have had no impact on readers' political views.

John Curtice, of the University of Strathclyde, looked at the newspaper- reading habits and political views of 1,317 voters, interviewed every year between 1992 and 1995 for the British Election Panel Survey.

Readers of the Sun certainly noticed that their paper had changed its allegiance, with a drop from 83 to 51 per cent in the proportion who believed it backed the Tories.

Other pro-Tory papers show smaller falls, with only readers of the Daily Telegraph believing it has remained loyal to the Tories. In 1992, 82 per cent ofDaily Telegraph readers thought it backed the Tories, compared to 80 per cent in 1995.

Daily Mirror and Guardian readers, by contrast, showed no change in their conviction that their papers supported Labour.

But the study found that Labour picked up more new supporters from readers of the Daily Mirror than of the Sun.

One of the reasons was that Daily Mirror readers were more likely to take a pessimistic view of the state of the economy.

But generally newspapers seem to have no discernible impact on readers' images of the parties or their leaders.

The study found no difference in how the Prime Minister was rated by readers of the "rebel Tory press" (the Sun, Daily Mail, The Times, and Star) and the "loyal press" (the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express), despite the rebels' call for Mr Major to be ousted in last year's Tory leadership battle.

Similarly, there was no evidence of any link between newspaper readership and opinions about the Labour leader, "despite the relatively favourable coverage which Tony Blair has received in the traditionally Tory press", Dr Curtice writes.

The findings do not necessarily confound the strategy of Alastair Campbell, the Labour leader's press secretary, of wooing the Tory press.

"It may have stopped the Tory press playing its usual role of acting as a source of reinforcement for the Conservatives," comments Dr Curtice. Last year Mr Blair travelled to Australia as the guest of Rupert Murdoch to speak to executives of his NewsCorp global media empire.

But Dr Curtice writes: "There is little evidence to suggest that either politicians or journalists should be as preoccupied with the partisan tone of the press as they often appear to be. The changed tone of the Tory press since 1992 may have been entertaining for journalists to read and a source of some self-satisfaction for Labour's spin doctors. But ... Mr Blair's best friend continues to be the Daily Mirror, not the Sun. Labour has been most likely to make converts among those who read the Daily Mirror and to lose friends among those who stop reading that paper."

He concludes that, overall, "the influence of the press is at most only a marginal one".

The effects that there are seem small, and the net effect of the partisan press appeared to be zero.

There was no difference between the swing to Labour since 1992 among readers of partisan papers, Labour and Tory, taken as a whole, and the swing among non-readers and readers of the "non-partisan press", including the The Independent. Which suggests that, taken together, the partisan papers have no impact on their readers, either in a pro-Tory or a pro- Labour direction.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
News
i100
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage: 'I don't know anybody in politics as poor as we are'
i100
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015