Twice as many Sun readers vote Lib Dem than Guardian readers

The decision of The Sun to switch its political allegiance from Labour to the Tories generated a fair few headlines last week, and a vigorous discussion here on LDV. It prompted me to undertake a quick calculation to find out approximately how many Sun readers are Lib Dem voters. And thanks to today’s Media Guardian, which publishes the voting intentions of newspapers’ readers at each of the last four general elections, I’m returning to the fray to give you two tables.

The first, below, shows the voting intentions of readers of the main national dailies, sorted in descending order of likelihood to vote Lib Dem at the 2005 general election. No real surprises here: the Indy and Grauniad top the table, the Sun and Star (despite Lembit’s best efforts) prop it up.

2005 voting intentions (%) by newspaper readership

  Lib Dem Con Labour
Independent 43% 11% 38%
Guardian 34% 7% 48%
The Times 24% 44% 27%
Daily Express 20% 44% 29%
Daily Telegraph 18% 64% 14%
Daily Mirror 15% 13% 66%
Daily Mail 14% 57% 24%
Daily Star 13% 17% 53%
Sun 10% 35% 44%


What’s more interesting is if we apply the latest readership figures for these newspapers to the 2005 voting intention figures, and assume that 61% (the 2005 turnout) will actually vote – this gives us an estimate of the number of actual Lib Dem, Labour and Tory voters reading each of the main national dailies:

2005 voting intentions (est. numbers @61% turnout) by readership

  Readers Lib Dem Con Labour
Sun 7.73m 471,530 1,650,355 2,074,610
Daily Mail 4.95m 422,730 1,721,115 724,680
Daily Mirror/Record 4.56m 417,240 361,608 1,835,856
The Times 1.77m 259,128 474,580 291,519
Guardian 1.21m 250,954 51,667 354,288
Daily Telegraph 1.89m 207,522 737,490 161,406
Daily Express 1.56m 190,320 418,704 275,964
Independent 0.65m 170,495 43,615 150,670
Daily Star 1.45m 114,985 150,365 468,785


The figures are, I’d be the first to admit, flawed. First, because they refer to 2005: a lot has changed in the last four years. And, secondly, because, rather than assume that 100% of a newspaper’s readers will actually vote, I’ve applied the 2005 general election turnout of 61%. However, it’s unlikely that exactly the same proportion of Daily Star readers will actually vote in a general election compared with readers of The Guardian. Still, it does at least give us a scale to work with.

And what the table shows – unsurprisingly – is that, though, the Independent has the highest proportion of Lib Dem voters, it has the second lowest actual number of Lib Dem voters. Meanwhile, The Sun and Mail, with among the lowest proportions of Lib Dem voters, have the highest actual number of Lib Dem voters reading their papers.

We know all this. Of course we do. But seeing the figures close up every now and then is no bad thing. It’s a stark reminder that, while LDV readers are probably most likely to read the ‘broadsheet’ press, most of our voters are browsing the tabloids.

It also prompts the broader question: what should be the Lib Dem media strategy when it comes to newspapers? Does the party focus on those papers most likely to support the party (Independent, Guardian) even though they have fewer readers; or does it strain every sinew to gain the party better coverage in those papers which are most hostile to us (Sun, Mail) because they have the most readers?

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  • There was an interesting CentreForum piece on this at Harrogate spring conference. They had some more recent research that showed that most LibDems either read no paper at all or read the Mail… Maybe now that the Sun’s supporting the Tories, more of their readers (particularly around Liverpool?) will want to vote for us?

  • Given that its labour votes that are up for grabs at the moment we out to be doing more to reach out to mirror readers, Vince’s writing for the mail and both he and Nick write for the indipendant and guardian from time to time but we really need someone to be writing for the mirror along with trying hardest to get them to cover us of coarse.

    Also given that its not votes that count but the distribution of votes, is there any way of knowing (or at least getting a vague idea) the distribution of newspaper readerships in relatiion to the marginal seats we’re trying to win.

  • The Sun supported Thatcher and Blair and now Cameron. As everyone knows, Offcom proposed that Sky hand over some of its premier league football to other broadcasters. Cameron said he would abolish Offcom. Murdoch, owner of Sky and the Sun supports Cameron.
    We have had 30 years of Thatcherite social (no such thing as Society) and economic (loadsamoney) policies and look where that has got us. If Murdoch is supporting Cameron, he will ensure that there will be no ‘real change’, only ‘false change’ . Only the Liberal Democrats will bring ‘real change’. How perceptive of Nick Clegg to notice this first.

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