Monday, September 21, 2020

Crafting A New Labour Narrative To Win Cities and Red Wall Towns

Individuals draw on narratives to make sense of the world and their own life choices and decisions. They construct structures of meaning, making a sequence of complex events understandable. Influential psychologist Ted Sarbin argues that “human beings think, perceive, imagine, and make moral choices according to narrative structures.” Powerful narratives conjure up stories that reaffirm an audience’s sense of their collective and individual identity.  

In political life, narratives are used to frame how events and issues are perceived, and to influence voting behaviour. While the media may direct public attention to certain issues the framing of these stories can be contested.  Political parties are preoccupied with their own narratives - the messages they want to present to voters. However, the public narrative - the stories that the public themselves are sharing - is far more significant. Stories are not simply transmitted and received, they are decoded by an audience, based on their own experience and in the context of other stories. Powerful political narratives understand this relationship and seek to shape the public narrative.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Developing an Effective Political Narrative

Following the 2016 EU referendum and US presidential election there has been renewed interest in the concept of political narratives and the power of storytelling. 

One of the main aims of a political narrative is to shape the public narrative, namely the stories that people share about themselves, their communities, and what needs to be done. The transmission of stories, the political storytelling, is only the first step. The real power of political narratives resides in their retelling.

From a review of the research, outlined in my book 'The Fall of the Red Wall', it is clear that for a political narrative to be powerful and influence the public narrative it should:

  • Reflect themes and narratives the audience is already familiar with 

  • Connect the past and the present with an imagined future

  • Align with the audience’s perceptions of reality

  • Be capable of being understood, discussed, and retold in everyday language

  • Enable the audience to identify with the narrator or the story

  • Confirm rather than negate the audience’s sense of collective and individual identity

  • Support the overall narrative arc by combining multiple stories that are mutually reinforcing

  • Be capable of being conveyed as a concise narrative

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Power of Public Narratives

Public narratives are the narratives that people share publicly, typically with more than one other person. Each person has their own public narrative, it is the story they share. It is a story they share with others in their own words, their own use of everyday language. The story may be shared in a social setting such as over a drink in a bar or equally in a focus group or in response to a question from a journalist. There will be many different public narratives but within the public sphere some narratives will come to dominate. These narratives, the ones that become familiar and influential, are the narratives repeated the most often. These are the narratives that resonate with people.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Defining Labour's Lost 'Red Wall'

The ‘Red Wall’ Concept

The ‘red wall’ concept was initially developed during 2019 by Tory pollster James Kanagasooriam, an advisory board member of Onward and a strategy consultant at OC&C. He first mentioned the concept in a tweet of August 2019, as part of a 16 part Twitter thread.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Political Storytelling: The Structure of Effective Political Narratives

Following the US presidential election of 2016 there has been increased interest amongst political scientists in the concept of political narratives and how storytelling influences how people understand and make sense of the world. Political narrative is both a theoretical concept and also a device used by political strategists to influence how people view their environment, their community and relationships between groups. (Graef et al, 2018).

In this post I argue that for a political narrative to be powerful and persuasive it should:

  • Reflect themes and narratives the audience is already familiar with
  • Connect the past and the present with an imagined future
  • Align with the audience’s perceptions of reality
  • Be capable of being understood, discussed and retold in everyday language
  • Enable the audience to identify with the narrator or the story
  • Confirm rather than negate the audience’s sense of collective and individual identity
  • Support the overall narrative arc by combining multiple stories that are mutually reinforcing
  • Be capable of being conveyed as a concise narrative

Monday, March 09, 2020

Labour to Conservative Vote Switchers in 2019

The British Election Survey (BES) data 2019 was published at the end of last week.  I was keen to explore the profiles of those voters that switched from Labour to Conservative as many of the 'red wall' seats appear to have involved direct Labour to Conservative switching. For example, in Bassetlaw the swing from Labour to the Conservatives was a record 18%. Such direct switching is unusual, particularly in former Labour heartlands.

The BES panel data includes 1077 voters nationally who voted Labour in 2017 and switched to the Conservatives in 2019. This data helps us to build a profile of the people who switched directly between the two main parties.

Saturday, November 02, 2019

Tactical Voting Confusion? General Election 2019

Will you vote for your first choice preferred Party at the upcoming election? A study by the Electoral Reform Society has found that 24% of voters plan to vote tactically i.e. for a less preferred party that they believe is more likely to win than their preferred party. We can expect Brexit to have an impact on voting choices as the election is being positioned by the Conservatives as a referendum on Brexit and we can expect some people to vote tactically for the Remain candidate most likely to beat a Conservative Party candidate in their constituency. Many sites and apps have been created to advise you on the best way to vote to stop the Conservatives. However, the advice from the these sites is not consistent which risks confusion.

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Facebook Engagement September 2019: Johnson Outperforms Corbyn for First Time.

On this blog I take a regular look at the activities of the main political parties on social media. In the last month there has been a striking increase in engagement with posts published on the Facebook pages of the Conservatives and Boris Johnson. For the first time engagements with Boris Johnson's posts have overtaken those of Jeremy Corbyn. There were over 1.5m engagements (likes, reaction, shares and comments) with Boris Johnson's posts in September.

The details are set out in the two charts below.

Facebook Engagements: Johnson v Corbyn

Click to enlarge

Friday, September 13, 2019

Pro-Brexit Posts Dominate On Facebook As The Election Campaign Begins

The UK's longest General Election campaign has begun. The earliest date is 22nd November so we have at least two months of campaigning ahead of us. I had look at some of the recent activity on Facebook to see the shape of the early campaign on the social media platform. What is clear is that pro-Brexit posts gain far more interaction than anti-Brexit posts. The top ten posts on Brexit with the most interactions over the last month were all pro-Brexit posts, the top three are shown below.

Friday, July 12, 2019

No Contest: Data Reveals Boris Johnson Wins Social Media Engagement Battle

The Conservative party leadership contest is nearing the end. It is estimated that 72% of ballot papers have been returned and polls indicate that Johnson will win comfortably (Telegraph, 11 July 2019). I decided to take a look at how both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are faring in terms of their social media engagement.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Women More Likely to Leverage Political Podcasts for Social Utility than Men

The old joke on Twitter is that a group of two or more white men is called "a podcast". This observation could also apply to the political podcast audience, my recent survey found that 71% of listeners were men. In this post I explore the gender issue in a little more depth and particularly the findings of statistically significant associations between gender and motivations. The results indicate that women have higher social utility motivations and potentially higher partisanship motivations.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Why do People Listen to Political Podcasts? Initial Research Findings

Political podcasts have become one of the most popular types of podcast (Chan-Olmsted, 2019). Recent download figures reveal The New York Times podcast 'The Daily' is downloaded nearly two million times a day (Evening Standard, 2019) and the BBC 'Brexitcast' podcast was downloaded over six million times in April 2019 (Sofos, 2019). There is clearly something about the nature of political podcasts that resonates with the audience. In my recent survey (n=1,346) I explored what motivates people to listen to political podcasts and whether these motivations are satisfied.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Embedding Podcasts on your Website with Spotify

There have always been a number of audio players that allow you to embed a podcast on your website. One of the easiest is the Spotify player which allows users to play the podcast directly from your site. Below I have embedded the Talking Politics podcast discussion about the latest European elections.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Who Listens to Political Podcasts? New Audience Research

Political podcast listening has increased significantly over the last two years and raises questions about adoption patterns in society. Who listens to these political podcasts? My recent survey of 1,346 listeners has found the audience is overwhelmingly male, highly educated and relatively wealthy. The average age of a listener is 41. Listeners discover political podcasts socially with 60% finding podcasts by word of mouth and 46% through social media. There is also a core of committed podcast listeners with 32% of the audience reporting to listen to five or more political podcasts a week. The audience characteristics are similar to an audience study, published earlier this year, of the popular Making History podcast (covering science, history and politics) in Israel which found that 90% of listeners were male, mostly 26 to 45 and well educated with relatively high incomes.  The full details are set out below.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

The Podcast Audience: What Four Recent Surveys Tell Us

To date there has been little reliable data on the characteristics of podcast listeners. Four recent podcast audience surveys (Edison, 2019; RAJAR, 2018; Westwood One, 2018; Chan-Olmsted, 2019) provide some insights as well as contradictory data on podcast listeners as a whole. At one level it makes little sense to conduct a survey of the overall audience as we can anticipate that audiences will vary from say crime podcasts to political podcasts to sports podcasts. Thus ideally more granular surveys would be conducted, however, they do provide some insights into the podcast audience.

Thursday, March 07, 2019

Latest Podcast Data (March 2019)

Over fifty percent of American adults have now listened to a podcast according to the latest Edison Infinite Dial report which was published yesterday. Podcasts have probably been the slowest growing form of communication technology, with very little growth from 2006 to 2015. However, podcasts are now becoming mainstream. The chart below shows the recent growth in US monthly listening, with 90m monthly podcast listeners or 32% of the population (12+).

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Growth of Political Podcasts

The ‘Pod Save America’ podcast “has caused a lot of people, particularly young people, to become engaged in ideas, in politics, in our democracy, like never before and for that I think we owe them something.” Preet Bharara, former U.S. Attorney, 30 November 2017.

 The ‘Pod Save America’ podcast was launched in January 2017 by ex-Obama staffers with an aim of informing, entertaining and inspiring both action and activism. The podcast aimed to create a ‘younger, more authentic voice’ that covered politics in a way that engages young people by making politics ‘entertaining and even fun,’ and by promising an unmediated “no-bullshit conversation about politics”. They were very critical of mainstream political coverage, did not see themselves as political pundits but rather aimed to become ‘the hub of the resistance’. The creators wanted to own their own show because they wanted ‘to not only be partisan but also activist’. In 2017 the podcast helped raise over $2m for Democrats running for office from over 40,000 individual donors. The podcast was downloaded more than 120 million times by November 2017 and is in the top 20 most downloaded podcasts in the US (Podtrac). Each episode is now downloaded on average more than 1.5 million times.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Book Review: Podcasting: New Aural Cultures and Digital Media 2018

Podcasting is a medium that is arguably going through a ‘golden age’ (Berry 2015; Ganesh 2016). The latest Reuters report (2019) has found that companies are planning to invest more in audio and podcasts in 2019. This rise in popularity is partly due to the ubiquity of smartphones making podcasts readily available. My personal interest in podcasting has grown from listening to an increasing number of political podcasts and this led me to read a recently published book Podcasting: New Aural Cultures and Digital Media 2018 edited by Llinares, Fox and Berry (2018).

I have outlined below some of the key themes from the book.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 11

It is the end of Michaelmas term and and my fellow students are about to disperse, many travelling back to their home countries. The last few weeks have passed by very quickly, partly as I put pressure on myself to complete my essays before Christmas, hence no blog posts for a while. If you want to speed up time just give yourself a tight deadline. I missed the Xmas party but did get to secret Santa, since you ask I got a thoughtful book of Donald Trump's poetry. Standing at Blackfriars station for the last time this term, as I waited for the Brighton train, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on my first term as a mature student.

View From Blackfriars Station

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 10

The temperature dropped to a few degrees this morning and Christmas lights are springing up across London. The Xmas break has loomed large on my horizon as I have been determined to get my coursework completed before we finish term. My three summative essays are not due in until the 14th January but I want to enjoy the holidays with the family without having to worry about coursework. Time will tell if this was a good strategy as I have been very busy reading and writing over the last few weeks. So much so that I have missed a few lectures and caught up with them using the video recordings.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Political Podcasts: A Growing Form of Political Journalism?

I have previously assumed that it is only political nerds like me that listen to political podcasts. However, last week the most downloaded podcast in the UK for two days in a row was a political podcast: Dial M for Mueller. In the US the New York Times Daily podcast is one of the top ten most downloaded podcasts each week. There also appears to be a growing number of political podcasts, see the political podcasts I listen to and recommend. So who is listening and why?

Podcasting is still a relatively new medium. It generated some initial excitement, with 2005 being called the year of the podcast and ‘‘podcast’’ was chosen that year as the New Oxford American Dictionary’s Word of the Year.  Since then it has continued to grow, albeit as a niche medium. In 2013 podcast subscriptions on Apple's iTunes platform passed the one billion mark. Pew Research has identified a considerable increase in podcast listening in recent years. The number of weekly NPR podcast users passed 5m in 2017.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 8

When the tutor says bring a calculator with a square root function, you know that the class is going to involve more math than you desire. This week we covered Z statistics which was more fun than it sounds. It was the first time I really had to get out my notepad to write down formulas and plug in numbers. It also made me realise I haven't written anything by hand for a long time.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 7

It was easy to get a space in the student refectory at lunchtime this week. It is normally busy and bustling with students but this week was reading week. One of our tutors had earlier opined that LSE really stood for 'Let's See Europe' and that seems to be the case during reading week. For myself, it meant getting my head down and completing two more formative essays and thinking about my dissertation.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Post-Truth: Useful Concept or Revenge of the Establishment?

This week I have been researching and writing an essay on truth and journalism. On of the things I have reflected on is the concept of Post-Truth. In the last two years alone over 25 books have been published with "Post-Truth" in the title. I should add I have only read three of these. The concept of post-truth really came to prominence following the Brexit referendum and the Trump election.

There were a few hundred articles written in the months after Brexit about "post-truth" but interest in the concept exploded after Trump's election. There were 1,400 articles written with "post-truth in the title in November 2016 alone, as shown below (data from BuzzSumo).

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Diary of a Mature MSc Student - Week 6

This week my daughter set a very high benchmark for my academic studies. She received a grade of 88% for her MSc dissertation. By contrast my work was used as an example of how not to write an essay.