Study demonstrates newspapers' bias in favour of Tories during the election campaign

PUBLISHED: 15:09 19 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:15 20 November 2019

Researchers found it was the Labour party who were most overwhelmingly targeted with negative coverage, while particular publications almost exclusively reserved positive stories for the Conservatives. Photo: Dominic Lipinski / PA

Researchers found it was the Labour party who were most overwhelmingly targeted with negative coverage, while particular publications almost exclusively reserved positive stories for the Conservatives. Photo: Dominic Lipinski / PA

PA Wire/PA Images

A study has proven the suspicions of many pundits, demonstrating how British newspapers consistently report negative stories about opposition parties while heaping positive reports on the Conservatives.

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Academics from Loughborough University examined the amount different print outlets ran positive and negative stories about each political party in the first week of the 2019 general election campaign.

In a week which was particularly disastrous for the Tories, the researchers found it was the Labour party who were most overwhelmingly targeted with negative coverage, while particular publications almost exclusively reserved positive stories for the Conservatives.

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"The unweighted results show that only the Conservative Party received more positive than negative coverage across all newspapers," the academics said in a summary of their research.

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"In contrast, Labour had a substantial deficit of positive to negative news reports in the first formal week of the campaign."

The study suggested it was The Sun and The Daily Mail who gave the most positive coverage of the Tories, with The Independent reporting these papers' journalists were "relied upon to write deferential, pro-government stories".

The results gave an "important context" for studying the election, according to the academics who said while Labour had more coverage in the first week of the election, "a large proportion of this was negative".

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The study of the first week weighted each news item about the election based on whether it contained a negative or positive implication for each party, scoring either -1 or +1 respectively, while balanced news items produced a 0 score.

The Tories average a score of +4 while Labour received -91.

Other opposition parties scored less extreme negative coverage: the Liberal Democrats -14, the SNP -8 and the Brexit party -2. The researchers said this "largely reflected their marginality in newspaper coverage".

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