Voters in the last general election were influenced more by newspapers than by social media, says former Sun editor David Dinsmore.
During a speech to the Society of Editors Conference in London this week, Dinsmore argued that The Sun’s ability to shape public opinion and debate wielded more influence than social media.
Dinsmore, who is now chief operating officer at News UK, was editor at The Sun during the last general election in which The Sun heavily backed the conservatives. In highlighting the influence the newspaper had on the election, Dinsmore pointed out that “social media kept talking of a Labour victory. If you tuned into Twitter during the campaign you would have assumed it was a done deal for Ed”.
He referred to an election day exit poll on Twitter by monitoring company TalkWater, which predicted a heavy defeat for the conservatives with 2,500 people claiming to have voted Labour against 777 for the Tories.
“There was a period for a couple of years at the start of the Coalition Government where sentiment on Twitter definitely moved government policy. They actually believed it was representative of the country. It is not the case”, he said.
A YouGov poll looking at how trusted newspapers were for delivering political news supported Dinsmore’s assertions. He flagged up the poll which showed that 50 per cent of the population trusted newspapers for political news whereas only 9 per cent believed social media was a reliable source of political news.
While TV was ranked as the most trusted source, Dinsmore said “the key statistic for me is that only nine per cent trust social media to deliver political news” before adding that "social tends to be a collection of people shouting”.
He held up newspapers “ability to shape opinion and debate” which he described as “our clear and common purpose and what sets us apart from other media”.
When touching upon publicly funded news broadcasters such as the BBC, Dinsmore said the newspapers were more reliable because they were more independent unlike the public broadcaster which he said “is never very far from a Charter or funding review, and so inevitably has to operate under the threat of political interference”.
He added that “this means the role of newspapers remains highly distinctive”.