Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Addendum to my previous post on the political spectrum and newspapers

My previous post on location the position of the best selling national daily UK newspapers in the political spectrum lead to some interesting discussions on Google Plus which pointed the way to other areas of research and points I need to clarify.
Is the left- and right-wingedness of UK newspapers representative of UK political opinion?

Probably not, the thing that is most representative of UK political opinion is the general election, and even then, that isn't representative of people who don't vote. The political spectrum of UK newspapers based on their -wingedness rank and their readership size is only representative of people who make the free economic choice to purchase newspapers. It doesn't represent people who don't buy papers, but instead get their news from TV, radio and the internet.

On the other hand, TV, radio and the internet are pretty much free, like The Metro newspaper, you don't have to make an economic decision to indulge, so they may be less representative of their viewers/readers.

I was going to say its like comparing apples and oranges, but I had a look on wikipedia about apples and oranges, and the consensus is that they're are quite comparable, they're both soft fruit that cost about the same, etc. Comparing websites and newspapers is pretty easy and valid, compared to, for example, comparing the word "research" and the number 38.

Anyhoo, I guess one of the main points of my argument that I should have mentioned earlier, is my belief that political views in the UK are smoothly and symmetrically spread. That there are just as many left of centre people in the UK as there are right of centre, and just as many far left supporters as there are far right supporters, not only that, but I propose that any doubts in the nature of this smooth continuum are down to the beholder's own personal bias, rather than an imbalance in -wingedness. And so from this, the centre ground is the median point where there are just as many people to the right as there are to the left.

An exception to this may be that perhaps some swath of people are less inclined to purchase newspapers and so aren't represented. So it could be possible that the UK press as a whole are biased to the right, or possibly biased to the left.

To try to address this, I've looked at the alexa stats for the newspapers involved, and from the given number of links to the website, we can approximate how popular the sites are, and applying the same methodology as before, the -wingedness of the papers is a little different:-

Left wing
The Guardian - 76,114 incoming links
The Independent - 27,797 incoming links

Centre ground
Daily Mirror - 10,263 incoming links
Financial Times - 26,386 incoming links
The Times - 39,534 incoming links

Right wing
Daily Telegraph - 54,075 incoming links
The Sun - 17,721 incoming links
Daily Mail - 40,243 incoming links
Daily Star - 2,520 incoming links
Daily Express - 4,347 incoming links
And I can create the neat table at the top of the post where the width represents the approximate number of hits for each newspaper's website.

This shift in the middle ground suggests that website viewers are biased to the left compared to newspaper buys who are biased to the right. Of course the objective truth of what the middle ground looks like is somewhere between these two. As for which is more truthiness, the internet or newspaper buying, I reckon its the people who are willing to directly hand money over for their news, rather than those who can freely click, that's my bias.

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