What the media didn’t tell you about the Bedford Mayor election

Cross-posted from The Wardman Wire:

Good news, though you’d be hard press to spot it from the media reports. On a like-for-like basis turnout was up significantly in the Bedford Mayor election this week.

In the first Mayor election, in October 2002, turnout was just 25% whilst this Thursday it was up to 31%. Six percentage points is a big increase, particularly from a base of only 25%.

Ah, you might be saying – but wasn’t turnout higher in the Mayor election in between those two? Yes, in the May 2007 Mayoral election in Bedford turnout was 41%. However, that election coincided with local elections in Bedford. Combining a low turnout election with higher turnout local elections raises the turnout of the former to the latter’s level. It is the same as with European elections: they have turnout lower than local elections, so combining the two raises European turnout to local levels.

That is why the more illuminating comparison is the like-for-like one: 2009 versus 2002, 31% up from 25%.

As I’ve commented before on occasions of other promising turnout news (here and here), the media is extremely reluctant to mention turnout good news stories. I don’t know exactly why. I’m sure it isn’t a deliberate conspiracy, but more a matter I suspect of increasing turnout being a story that is so far off the main media agenda that the evidence for it is not seen or looked for.

The general assumption is that the turnout story is bad, and if there aren’t numbers immediately to hand to show that then there is no story to report – rather than digging to see if there might actually be a good news story. The assumption of bad news, with the result that the evidence is either missed or misquoted, is one the Electoral Commission has also fallen prey to.

These traits are demonstrated all the more in an election such as the Bedford Mayor election which is (wrongly, as James Graham points out) given a low media priority. As a result the reports are brief with often no mention of turnout figures and even when it comes to vote share reports often are only of raw totals, without percentages or the numbers being put in the context of past results.

In this case the media errors and omissions matter because one of the most powerful influences on turnout is whether or not people think other people are voting. Consistently getting the true situation wrong is more than a statistical problem; it depresses turnout.

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in News.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Allen 28th Jul - 7:18pm
    On leadership: I guess there are two extreme approaches, which are both a problem. The "Stalinist" approach is for a leader to ignore the party...
  • User AvatarKatharine Pindar 28th Jul - 6:57pm
    Many thanks, chaps, for further interesting comments, but I have to go out, so I can't deal with them properly till later. But one point,...
  • User AvatarJohn King 28th Jul - 6:46pm
    To Jayne Mansfild. I did try to access that report you mention but it's difficult to determine when the work was done, as opposed to...
  • User AvatarDavid Allen 28th Jul - 6:42pm
    Simon, Corbyn supporters are not getting "defensive" they are getting furious with your tedious inteminable distortions. You are playing the Corbynites on side!
  • User AvatarRichard Underhill 28th Jul - 5:58pm
    3 star chef
  • User AvatarSteve Trevethan 28th Jul - 5:30pm
    @ Katharine Pindar My pleasure! Here are some further bits and pieces: We would serve our fellow citizens and party well if we could spread...
Wed 2nd Aug 2017
Thu 3rd Aug 2017
Mon 21st Aug 2017