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What did the election manifesto announcements mean for the two main parties?

April 20th, 2015 - Posted by Doireann Clabby in Political Media Tracker

Following the manifesto announcements of the two main parties, many of the national newspaper coverage took a similar format: positive front covers for the Tories and editorial dissections of the Labour party manifesto.  Many, including The Times, pointed out that Labour's manifesto seemed to be "an attempt to prove the party can be trusted over the economy" but concluded that "In its vagueness, it goes some way to proving the opposite".

The Daily Express followed suit, imploring the electorate to not "be fooled by Labour's promises on the economy".

If lack of detail equates to a lack of interest then our latest Media Tracker analysis on media coverage of the main parties' election manifestos would suggest clear cause and effect, with a sharp dip for Labour following the announcement.

Media interest in the manifestos of the two main parties climbed over the course of a week from double digits to a peak of just under 350 articles on April 14 – the day that the Tories launched their manifesto and just 24 hours after Ed Miliband had presented his party's ideas for the future.

While interest in party policies had been divided equally from early March up to the publishing of the manifestos themselves, the Conservatives clearly won the editorial battle on the day itself with Media Tracker recording just shy of 150 articles covering its launch, leaving Labour trailing on a little over 100.

Roy Greenslade, the Guardian's media commentator, analysed press coverage on the day and his findings clearly back up our data.  He said that the Tories were the outstanding winners of the manifesto battle with a series of positive news articles.  Given the Conservative-leanings of much of the traditional press, that is hardly surprising, although he points out that even his own left-leaning publication gave David Cameron's party a relatively easy ride.

Following the launches, coverage tailed off gently for the Tories while interest in Labour suffered a more marked fall, perhaps to be expected given that Miliband had launched his manifesto 24 hours earlier than Cameron.  By April 15, Tory policies were covered in about 130 articles, with Labour dropping back down to fewer than 50 – the level it had been in the run up to the announcements.  The following day, the Conservatives still received the coverage of almost 100 articles with Labour back down almost into single figures.

It had taken just 48 hours following the launch of both manifestos for the coverage to be almost entirely dominated by analysis of Conservative policies with little, if any, interest in Labour's.

As Election Day closes in, media coverage becomes increasingly important for the main political parties.  With the result predicted to be extremely close it is almost impossible to predict the outcome with any degree of certainty, although the media response to manifesto announcements does seem to have favoured the Conservatives. 

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