Election UnspunThe battle to set the agenda during the UK General Election 2015 was fought by all sides through social media and mainstream news outlets. The way that battle played out and the influence of each media source on pulling public attention towards a particular issue is the basis of a new report, “UK Election 2015: Setting the Agenda” [pdf] by Martin Moore and Gordon Ramsay”.

The report is published by Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at the Policy Institute at King’s College London.  The report, which has its foundations in the data collected for the Election Unspun project, analyses party political communication in the press, and amongst political actors and influencers on Twitter, during the 2015 UK General Election.

The authors analysed articles published online in 16 national news outlets and more than one million tweets by more than 3,000 political actors and influencers, to try and understand the dynamics of agenda-setting in the May 2015 UK general election campaign.

According to the report, the Conservatives not only won a majority at the election, but also won the battle to set the agenda during the campaign.  The Conservative Party concentrated its communication on the economy and, for the most part, mainstream news outlets followed suit.  This subsequently framed much of the debate amongst political influencers on Twitter.

Dr Martin Moore, Director of the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power at the Policy Institute at King’s, said:

‘Ultimately, this was a carefully controlled and stage-managed campaign.  The Conservatives were particularly disciplined in what they did and did not talk about, and much of the press followed their lead. Social media was, for the main party candidates, a broadcast medium, not a channel for more open dialogue. It was left in part to political influencers on Twitter to adopt the traditional role of the Fourth Estate – scrutinizing and holding the parties to account. It would be strange if 2020 saw such a shrink-wrapped campaign’.

The data collected for Election Unspun and the analysis presented in UK election 2015: setting the agenda provides a new perspective on how political communication is changing in the digital era.