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You are what you read?

How newspaper readership is related to views

You are what you read?

Guardian readers' attitudes are the furthest from the average — and Daily Mirror readers' views are closest

Newspaper readers are less likely to express 'average' views on the five top issues — defence, the NHS, race/immigration, education and crime — than those who don't read a daily paper, according to a new report from MORI.

'You Are What You Read?' is based on interviews with more than 10,000 people, and provides details on the views of readers of every paper — including their voting intentions and views of government. Some of the conclusions reached in the report are:

  • Guardian readers' views are most consistently different from the national average
  • Daily Mirror readers' views are the closest to the national average
  • Nearly all "quality daily" readers have an opinion on what is the most important issue facing Britain — unlike Star readers, 26% of whom say they don't know

MORI Research Director Bobby Duffy, one of the report authors, said: "One of the most notable patterns revealed in this report is that people who do not read any newspapers tend to be much closer to the average view on all issues, in contrast to readers of particular papers who show wide variations."

"For example, in March and April last year there was an increase in concern about immigration across readers of most papers, when many newspapers ran stories on the possible increase in immigration as a result of EU expansion. However, there was no similar peak among those who do not read any papers."

"This might appear to support Alan Milburn's suggestion that it will be vital to the success of Labour's election campaign for the party to pay less attention to the news media," said Duffy. "But of course it does not really follow that ignoring what is said in newspapers will get anyone closer to the concerns of 'real people'. If anything it could be argued that politicians need to draw from wider across the media to understand the messages that people are receiving."

"This becomes clearer when you look at the newspaper readership pattern of MPs. For example, two thirds of Labour MPs regularly read the Guardian, but only around a quarter read the Telegraph, Mail or Sun. Similarly, while around eight in ten Conservative MPs read the Telegraph or Times, just 14% read the Guardian. It is not really Westminster or media "bubbles" that campaign managers should be worried about — it is Guardian and Telegraph bubbles."

Other key points from the report are:

  • Guardian and Express readers have similar levels of concern about the NHS and crime, but Guardian readers are much more concerned about defence — and Express readers are twice as likely to be concerned about race and immigration.
  • On race/immigration, 48% of Express readers and 46% Daily Mail readers say this is one of the most important issues facing the country — compared with 19% of Guardian readers and 20% of Independent readers
  • But before we say that higher concern about immigration among Mail/Express readers is due to these papers overstating the issue, we need to note that readers of the Financial Times — not known for its sensationalist reporting — are nearly as likely as Mail readers to consider immigration a key issue facing Britain (44%).
  • Guardian parents are particularly worried about education, with 63% saying it is a key concern, compared with 37% of parents as a whole.
  • Daly Mirror and Star readers are most likely to say they will vote Labour, Telegraph and Mail readers are most likely to vote Conservative and Lib-Dem support is highest among Guardian and Independent readers.
  • Daily Telegraph readers are the oldest, Financial Times and Star readers are most likely to be men and Sun readers are most evenly spread across regions.

Technical details

The analysis is based on over 10,000 interviews conducted on MORI's Omnibus study of GB adults aged 15+, between January and October 2004.

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