London Mayoral Election Results: analysing the media reaction

January 01, 1970 by Leela Bozonelis

Did media profile predict the win?

Labour's Sadiq Khan comfortably won the London Mayoral election following the final round of voting, beating his closest rival, Conservative Zac Goldsmith, 57-43. Khan received more than 1.3 million votes – the largest personal mandate in UK political history.

LexisNexis has been tracking and analysing online news and social media coverage over the course of the London Mayoral Election using LexisNexis Newsdesk. Media coverage consistently reflected the popularity of Sadiq Khan and Zac Goldsmith, who had the highest media profile of all of the Mayoral Election candidates during 2016.  Between them, Khan maintained a small but significant lead in media profile, with analysis showing a tight gap between the two frontrunners in the lead up to the polls.

During the campaign and in the days following his election, Khan's media profile significantly increased, with Goldsmith's levelling off before beginning its steep decline.  While a significant increase in media profile is to be expected of a winner, Khan's coverage levels and share of voice began to increase in the days before Election Day.  By Friday it was clear the media had already decided who would win the election.
coverageshare of voice

Khan the success story

Although the first Labour Mayor of London since 2008, Sadiq Khan is no stranger to success, having defended his Tooting seat at the general election in 2010 from a strong Conservative challenge.  In the 2014 local elections Khan achieved Labour's best London result since 1971.  Much of this success stems from Khan's political campaign strategy of 'personality over policy'.  Khan positioned himself as the 'son of a bus driver' who will make commuting more affordable and 'the British Muslim who will take on the extremists': simple, clear and consistent messaging.

Although effective, these messages overlaid a campaign dogged in controversy. Khan is the first Muslim mayor of a western capital, and is therefore a figure of global significance.  Khan's closest rival Goldsmith was accused of running a negative campaign and during a recent Prime Minister's Questions, Labour leader Jeremy Corbin accused the entire Conservative party of running a smear campaign against Khan. The accusation referred to Khan's link to a London Imam alleged to support IS, however Khan repeatedly stated that IS was in 'no way compatible with my beliefs'.

A shift in social sentiment

Khan has been consistent in addressing the issue of his religion head on throughout his campaign for election.  Shortly after the November 2015 Paris attacks, Khan defined the 'special role' Muslims had in combating the threat of terrorism during a speech to the parliamentary press gallery, stating that Muslims had a role to play "not because we are more responsible than others, as some have wrongly claimed, but because we can be more effective at tackling extremism than anyone else".

This narrative appears to have persuaded many, which has been reflected in a change in social sentiment of Khan's media profile.  Analysis of Khan's social and online media coverage in the lead up to the election using the LexisNexis Newsdesk 'article sentiment' tool shows that negative sentiment (23%) outweighed positive (9%).  In the days since his election as mayor, this has swung substantially, becoming more positive (16%) than negative (14%).  Only time will tell if this trend continues as Khan begins to implement the changes promised during his election campaign.  
article sentiment beforearticle sentiment after

Towards the EU Referendum

Khan has been outspoken in his support for the UK to remain in the European Union (EU) throughout the campaign.  Whether his appointment as Mayor of London has a significant impact on voters on 23 June remains to be seen.  'Europe' and the 'European Union' have been minimal topics in Khan's media profile, featuring in only two to three per cent of articles referring to the new mayor.  Furthermore, the LexisNexis EU Referendum Tracker shows that, although during Election Day the Remain campaign received more attention, coverage for Brexit is stronger than ever.Related blogs

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