September 18, 2020

Where MPs get their news

Author:
Cameron Stocker, Parliamentary Panels Coodinator
Seven in ten MPs watch or listen to each of the BBC 6 O’Clock News/BBC News at Ten (73%), BBC News Channel (71%) and BBC Radio 4 (70%) at least weekly.

Using the Savanta ComRes parliamentary panel, we asked MPs about their news consumption as well as their views on constituent trust towards a range of different news outlets.

It’s clearly a priority for MPs to keep up to date with current affairs. It helps them represent their constituents and adapt their focus wherever needed. Although MPs need to follow the news closely, this does not mean they all watch the same news programmes, listen to the same radio stations, or read the same blogs.


MPs now consume newspapers mostly online

Over the last several years physical newspapers have seen a decline in readership, with people shifting to reading them online. This is also seen in how MPs read newspapers – nearly half (46%) of MPs read The Guardian online at least twice a week, whereas only one in ten (9%) read the paper version twice a week. This trend is shown through the majority of newspapers, another example being The Times, where half (48%) of MPs read the online version at least twice a week, whereas only a quarter (28%) read the paper version twice a week.

As Savanta ComRes has tracked the opinions of MPs for many years, we have tracked how MPs have gradually turned to online newspapers, one key example being The Financial Times. In 2016, one in ten (12%) MPs read the online version at least twice a week, yet two years later in 2018 this jumped to one fifth (19%) of all MPs. In 2020, it rose again to one third (31%).

 

BBC news programmes are the mostly frequently watched or listened to

Seven in ten MPs watch or listen to each of the BBC 6 O’Clock News/BBC News at Ten (73%), BBC News Channel (71%) and BBC Radio 4 (70%) at least weekly. Only a small minority listen to the likes of CNN (9%) or Bloomberg (11%) at least weekly.

Labour MPs seem to be more regular watchers and listeners of news programmes than their Conservative counterparts, with around eight in ten watching or listening to the BBC programmes listed above at least weekly, compared to between six and seven in ten of Conservative MPs. Channel 4 News shows the biggest discrepancy in watching habit between the two parties – which 65% of Labour MPs watching it at least weekly, compared to just 25% of Conservative MPs. When MPs were asked for their favourite regular news programme on TV or radio covering politics in the UK, Today – BBC Radio 4 came out top, followed by Newsnight.

 

Andrew Neil and Laura Kuenssberg are MPs’ favourite broadcast journalists

When ask who their favourite broadcast journalists are, MPs appear to show a significant difference between parties. The overall favourites are Andrew Neil, with one fifth (18%) of MPs saying that he is their favourite, closely followed by Laura Kuenssberg (17%) Conservative MPs selected Andrew Neil as their favourite, with a third (30%) choosing him. The favourite broadcast journalist for Labour MPs is Laura Kuenssberg, with one fifth (20%) selecting her as their favourite journalist on our screens.

MPs’ favourite blogs are entirely split by party lines

We asked MPs for their favourite blog covering politics in the UK. Tory MPs most commonly cited Guido Fawkes (30%), with no Labour MPs choosing the Order Order site. On the other hand, Labour MPs most often gave Huff Post (20%) as their preferred blog, with this time no Conservative MPs choosing that particular website.

When it comes to daily briefing emails, three in ten of both Conservative (28%) and Labour MPs (32%) read the Times Red Box email at least twice a week. More than a third of Labour MPs also regularly read the New Statesman Morning Call (36%) and Huff Post Waugh Zone (40%).

 

MPs believe local news is the most trusted among constituents

When asked about constituent trust towards different news sources, it is apparent that MPs believe local radio and TV news are trusted to a greater extent than national, international, and online-only news. Nine in ten MPs (88%) believe local radio news is trusted to at least some extent by constituents, with a similar proportion feeling the same about local TV news (87%). Online news sources are felt to be far less trusted by constituents. A majority of MPs (57%) feel that social media is not a trusted a news source among constituents, while two in five (39%) feel the same way about online-only news sources.

When we split these results by party, we see differences in how MPs perceive trust among constituents. Labour MPs believe that constituents trust most news sources more than their Conservative colleagues.

Nearly all Labour MPs (95%) believe that constituents trust national radio news to some extent, whereas only three quarters (75%) of Conservative MPs believe the same. Social media displays the largest difference in results; over half (52%) of Labour MPs believe constituents trust news sources on social media to some extent, whereas only a third (30%) of Conservative MPs believe the same.

MPs of both parties, though, feel that their constituents are most likely to trust local radio and TV news. At a time when national news is dominated by coronavirus and the pandemic is likely to have had the effect of people feeling closer ties to their communities, it is perhaps not surprising to see local news playing a bigger role in people’s lives.

 

Savanta ComRes runs an industry-leading suite of parliamentary panels, helping clients to understand parliamentarians’ perceptions of their organisation, sector, communications and policy positions. Get in touch to find out more. 


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