Scotland decides - and the media reports

01 Jan 1970 1:00 am

Several months ago it appeared that a resounding ‘NO’ vote was inevitable.  But, as polling day gets closer, there is more and more uncertainty over the likely result with a shock new poll outlining a 51-49% swing in favour of a ‘YES’ vote. Clearly voters make up their minds according to a number of reasons; policy discussions, personalities involved, TV debates and more.  But is reporting in the media proving to be a key influencer? Or just a co-incidence?

To test this theory, we used Nexis Analyser to compare the media profile of the terms ‘SCOTTISH REFERENDUM’, ‘YES’ and ‘NO’.

  • In the months between January and June this year the media profile remained pretty steady with both the ‘YES’ campaign and the ‘NO’ campaign receiving similar levels of profile.
  • In July, media coverage of the referendum soared, with nearly double the number of articles compared to the previous month. At this time the coverage of each campaign increased, but more so for the ‘NO’ campaign. A subsequent August YouGov poll showed topline figures of ‘YES’ at 35% (no change) and ‘NO’ at 55% (+1).

scotlandAs the distance between the two campaigns narrowed in the opinion polls through August a major change began to take place: the ‘YES’ campaign started receiving more media profile than the ‘NO’ campaign. A subsequent YouGov poll released in September revealed that, with less than two weeks to go until voting day, the ‘YES’ campaign was leading at 51% with ‘NO’ at 49%.

These findings suggest that media reporting could well have played an important part in raising awareness of each campaign, resulting in a shock swing to the ‘YES’ campaign. Interestingly, almost four years ago, a YouGov poll found that Ed Miliband had overtaken his brother David in the race to become Labour’s new leader by the same margins: 51-49%. We obviously know the outcome of that vote so it will be interesting to watch exactly how the people of Scotland will vote.

Irregardless of the outcome, the statistics do show a close correlation between media exposure and the polls. Apparently Alex Salmond is making a series of carefully staged, media friendly events. How can the ‘NO’ camp stop the perceived momentum? In the final days of the referendum campaign, it might well be worth the ‘NO’ campaign significantly stepping up their media campaigning.