UK Data Service data catalogue record for:

Content Analysis of Media Coverage of the 2015 British General Election

Title details

SN: 8176
Title: Content Analysis of Media Coverage of the 2015 British General Election
Persistent identifier: 10.5255/UKDA-SN-8176-1
Depositor: Stevens,D., University of Exeter. Centre for Elections, Media and Participation
Principal investigator(s): Banducci, S.A., University of Exeter. Centre for Elections, Media and Participation
Cioroianu, I., University of Exeter. Centre for Elections, Media and Participation
Coan, T., University of Exeter. Centre for Elections, Media and Participation
Katz, G., University of Exeter. Centre for Elections, Media and Participation
Kolpinskaya, E., University of Exeter. Centre for Elections, Media and Participation
Stevens,D., University of Exeter. Centre for Elections, Media and Participation
Sponsor(s): Economic and Social Research Council
Grant number: ES/M010775/1


The citation for this study is:

Banducci, S.A., Cioroianu, I., Coan, T., Katz, G., Kolpinskaya, E., Stevens,D. (2017). Content Analysis of Media Coverage of the 2015 British General Election. [data collection]. UK Data Service. SN: 8176,

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Subject Categories

Election and campaign studies - Politics
Mass media - Media, communication and language
Social attitudes and behaviour - Society and culture


Abstract copyright UK Data Service and data collection copyright owner.

These data consist of analysis of media coverage of the 2015 British General Election. Media included are national newspapers, local newspapers, national and regional television news, and radio. The complete list of outlets is included in the codebooks.

This study was conducted as part of the ESRC Media in Context and The 2015 General Election: How Traditional and Social Media Shape Elections and Governing award. It was timely and important in an era of declining support for the major parties. In the last two elections the leading parties have formed governments with roughly 35% of the vote, with 2015 at the time of the research promising a similar scenario and possibly another coalition. The election also promised debates - including more leaders' debates- on major constitutional issues pertaining to national and regional devolution and their consequences for Westminster, as well as on the possibility of a referendum on continuing EU membership, all in a context of continuing austerity. Media reporting and framing of such subjects was likely to be critical to the dynamics of the election, to public opinion, and to the election's aftermath. Yet although their effects on voters have consumed research on electoral politics in Britain, the US and other democracies since the 1940s, the question of media effects remains unsettled. Moreover, the issue of the difference that social media has made, supplementing or replacing the information provided by traditional media - television, newspapers and radio - further muddied the waters. In this research the team sought to address several pressing questions pertaining to media effects on governance and elections and also to gather timely and high quality data on media coverage during and after the 2015 British General Election, to share with the user community.

The substantive questions examined were:
  1. The flow of campaign information. Traditional academic models depict campaign information flows as linear, from elites to opinion leaders to masses, but this may no longer be accurate in a world in which social media can provide a platform for opinion leaders (and masses) to produce information. While some think that social media have made opinion leaders even more important, others argue that it has cut them out of the picture, with information flowing directly to the consumer.
  2. The changing media landscape matters in a second way - not in terms of the flow of information but, more straightforwardly, for where if at all people obtain political information in a world of declining newspaper readership and trust in media. Moreover, the traditional media no longer play the same gatekeeping role, potentially diluting their influence on the issue agenda. For example, traditional campaigns in the UK followed a pattern in which parties held morning press conferences that launched the 'theme of the day'. While the media may not have always framed the theme in the way parties would have wished, the press conference set the issue agenda for 24 hours. That no longer seems to be the case.
  3. The role of the media, both social and traditional, in the post-election period. Interpretations of election results may be important in two respects: in conferring legitimacy upon the outcome and thus fostering what is sometimes known as "losers' consent", and in providing a narrative about the mandate the incoming government enjoys.
The study also addressed four deficiencies in existing studies of British media election coverage: that they tend to focus on election coverage, ignoring non-election coverage and thus not permitting analysis of the overall news context or the prominence of the election as an issue; that the data are either not made publicly available or only made available years after the election; that recent British election studies have permitted little understanding of media effects due to very few questions about media habits; and that British media studies tend to rely exclusively on survey data, ignoring the benefits for establishing causation and effect sizes offered by field experiments. The proposed research brought together investigators with a unique combination of expertise in human and automated traditional and social media content analysis and statistical modelling skills.

Main Topics:
The content analysis data can be linked to the British Election Survey Wave 5, which has been included in the study with additional variables at the end of the files. The additional variables are derived from the open ended variables pertaining to media use asked in the BES (tv1_1, tv2_1, tv3_1, radio1_1, radio2_1, radio3_1, paper1_1, paper2_1, paper3_1, internet1_1, internet2_1, internet3_1). The new variables are named paper1, paper2, paper3, internet1, internet2, internet3, tv1, tv2, tv3, radio2, radio1 and radio3. Users of the data may either wish to link all the content of the outlets used by an individual respondent to a measure of media exposure or to weight it by frequency of use of that media. Frequency of use is contained in the BES file in variables infoSourceTV, infoSourcePaper, infoSourceRadio and inforSourceInternet.

The original BES data used can be downloaded from Wave 5 of the 2014-2018 British Election Study Internet Panel.

Coverage, universe, methodology

Time period: 01 February 2015 - 30 May 2015
Country: United Kingdom
Spatial units: Government Office Regions
Westminster Parliamentary Constituencies
Observation units: Individuals
Text units (documents/chapters/words)
Kind of data: Alpha/numeric data
Individual (micro) level
Universe: National
Respondents to the 2015 British Election Study; media items covering the 2015 general election.
Time dimensions: Cross-sectional (one-time) study
Sampling procedures: See documentation for details
Method of data collection: Transcription of existing materials
Weighting: Weighting used. See documentation for details.

Thesaurus search on keywords

Administrative and access information

Date of release:
First edition: 08 June 2017
Copyright: Copyright S.A. Banducci, I. Cioroianu, T. Coan, G. Katz, E. Kolpinskaya and D. Stevens
Access conditions: The depositor has specified that registration is required and standard conditions of use apply. The depositor may be informed about usage. See terms and conditions for further information.
Availability: UK Data Service
Contact: Get in touch


Title File Name Size (KB)
British Election Study 2015 - Questionnaire Wave 5 8176_bes2015_wave5reupload.pdf 2463
Media in Context - Social Media Codebook 8176_codebook_mic_social_media_v01.pdf 206
Media in Context - Traditional Media Codebook 8176_codebook_mic_traditional_media_v01.pdf 217
Readme Dataset Information 8176_readme.pdf 613
Study information and citation UKDA_Study_8176_Information.htm 6
READ File read8176.htm 10


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