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Television and the election: was it television what hung it?

Television and the electionTelevision continued to dominate as a source of influence and information in this year’s election, despite 2010 being anticipated by some as the first social media election in the UK, according to Deloitte’s official report for the 2010 MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, ON TV: perspectives on television in words and numbers.

According to the survey, designed by Deloitte and conducted by YouGov, almost half of respondents who watched the debates said they had an influence on the way they chose to vote. Among those who said the debate had an impact on the way they chose to vote, the most common resulting impact was to re-affirm or confirm support for a particular party.

  Television and the election  

But of those impacted by the debates, 12 percent said they had changed their vote as a result, and 7 percent decided to vote when previously they had planned to abstain (see Figure 3). These individuals represent a small proportion (2.8 percent and 1.6 percent respectively) of the entire sample; on a national scale, this might only make a difference in marginal seats where a small incremental swing made the difference between one party winning or losing.

However, it is unlikely that television significantly changed the election result. The longer-term trend of a gradual decline in support for Labour since its landslide victory in 1997 and the massive swing required for a Conservative majority made a hung Parliament the most likely outcome.

Television’s biggest impact was to offer, in the form of the debates, a relatively unfiltered view of the leaders to the general public. Newspapers, by contrast, typically apply a degree of editorial to their coverage.

Find out how traditional and new media compared against television in ON TV: perspectives on television in words and numbers, released on 27 August.

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