Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Media and Communication


A Misjudged Election: reflecting on the media’s role in the ‘snap’ General Election of 2017

Lecture Theatre 1, Conference Auditorium

On 18 April this year Prime Minister Theresa May stepped up to a podium in a blustery Downing Street and declared, ‘We need a general election and we need one now’. Announcing the election would take place on 8 June, May claimed she was taking the step reluctantly but saw this as an opportunity to guarantee certainty, especially in the face of difficult Brexit negotiations. With a reported 20-point lead in the polls, political experts and media commentators alike expected a Conservative landslide.

We now know that the election ended in a hung parliament with May’s promise of ‘strong and stable’ leadership in tatters. Despite not actually winning, Jeremy Corbyn’s effective campaigning and apparent reinvigoration of the youth vote brought elation to Labour supporters who had expected a disaster.

So how did the politicians, pollsters, media and experts get the election so wrong? The election was both unexpected and produced a surprise result. This research event presents an excellent opportunity to examine the media’s role in the 2017 election campaign in the context of politically turbulent times.

We have an excellent line-up of distinguished scholars for this event. The first session consists of three presentations each focussing on a different aspect of the media’s reporting of the election – the press, online and television/broadcast – with Professor David Deacon (Loughborough), Dr Julie Firmstone (Leeds) and Dr Emily Harmer (Liverpool). Following a refreshment break, the presenters will join Professor Stephen Coleman, Emeritus Professor Jay G. Blumler and BBC Chief Political Adviser and Visiting Professor Ric Bailey for a roundtable Q & A discussion. We encourage audience questions in both sessions.

This event is FREE but we would be grateful if those attending could register through Eventbrite so that we order enough drinks for the break.

The event is co-sponsored by the Journalism Research Group and the Political Communication Research Group in the School of Media and Communication. If you have any questions, please contact Dr Julie Firmstone (j.a.firmstone@leeds.ac.uk) or Dr Katy Parry (k.j.parry@leeds.ac.uk).


Schedule: Starts at 1.30pm and ends at 5pm.

1.30-3.00pm: Welcome and Presentations from Professor David Deacon (Loughborough), Dr Julie Firmstone (Leeds), and Dr Emily Harmer (Liverpool) with audience Q&A. Chaired by Dr Giles Moss.

3.00-3.30pm: Tea/coffee/ biscuits

3.30-5.00pm: Roundtable discussion with audience Q&A. Chaired by Dr Katy Parry.


Presentation details:

Professor David Deacon, Loughborough University
TV News media coverage of the 2017 election: Two parts policy, one part process

Among the many surprises created by the snap 2017 General Election was the manner of its coverage by the UK mainstream TV news. In this presentation, I review some of the distinctive features of this election compared with other recent elections.

Dr Julie Firmstone, University of Leeds
Newspapers’ editorial opinions – stuck between a rock and a hard place

The opinion leading aims of newspapers are at their most vociferous during elections. My analysis of the editorial opinions published by British national newspapers in the days leading up to the general election illustrates the vastly greater vigour of newspaper opinion in favour of a vote for the Conservatives. Although the weight of opinion within the British press was vehemently against Labour, and Corbyn in particular, the surprise election outcome leads us to look beyond basic measurements to consider how a more nuanced analysis of editorials can provide a picture that fits more accurately with the result.

Dr Emily Harmer, University of Liverpool
Alternative agendas or more of the same? Online News Coverage of the 2017 UK Election

The circumstances of the 2017 election led to much commentary arguing that the power of the right-wing press over the political process is waning. Coupled with the decline in newspaper circulations and rise of online platforms, it is pertinent to analyse the kind of news stories and information available in the online environment during the election. Drawing on a content analysis of five online news sources, we examine the agendas and perspectives offered by the most prominent digital news providers in the UK. When taking these websites together, our analysis shows that online news largely followed the agenda of the mainstream media lavishing much attention on the two main party leaders and focusing on the electoral process above all else. There were some interesting differences between the news outlets which will form the basis of this paper.


Roundtable discussion

In the second session our esteemed panellists discuss the election coverage in the wider context of a turbulent period in UK, and indeed global, politics. In this session will hope to encourage wider discussion on the rapidly changing and unpredictable nature of election campaigns, opinion polling and voter engagement, in a time when the relations between media, citizens and politicians appear to be in flux.

Register for this event through Eventbrite

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