Survey Variable: Newspaper Readership

Figure 1. See also Table A1.

The newspapers that people read were, in the past, often used by polling companies and others as a proxy for ideological views and party preferences. With the decline in (physical) newspaper readership and the rise of readily available indicators of ideology and party preferences, the variable has somewhat fallen out of favour. Nevertheless, it remains a useful indicator of people’s political views and cultural preferences, at least for those who those who indicate a preference for a particular title. As such, the Privilege and Participation survey asked people what newspaper they usually read. As we can see from Figure 1 (above, using weighted data), a quarter of people (25.1%) indicate that they do not read a newspaper but, of course, this leaves three quarters who do. The most popular title is The Sun, which is read by a fifth of people (21.1%) and is followed by The Mail (14.6%) and The Mirror (9.3%). Each of the remaining titles are read by no more than one in twenty people, though the group that reads other titles (6.7%) slightly exceeds this.

Rather than looking at the small numbers of people who read each individual title, we can group them into the three common categories of tabloid, mid-market, and broadsheet. Doing so removes political distinctions between newspapers (e.g. The Mirror and The Sun are both tabloids but the former tends to lean left and support Labour whilst the latter tends to lean right and support the Conservatives) but allows us to observe groups with cultural tastes running from more popular to more ‘legitimate,’ at least in terms of their preferred newspaper. As we can see in Figure 2 (below, also using weighted data), the largest group, a third (32.0%), reads tabloid newspapers, following by the quarter who read no newspaper. One in six people (16.8%) read mid-market titles, one in seven read broadsheets (14.3%), and slightly less than one in eight (11.8%) read other titles. Thus, we do see a distinction between the popularity of the tabloid titles and the more niche nature of the ‘legitimate‘ broadsheet titles. Indeed, fewer than half as many people read the latter than read the former so they can, perhaps, be taken as a marker of ‘distinction.’

Figure 2. See also Table A2.
Variable namescc_newspaper
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories16
Categories to code as missingNone
Cases to code as missingNone
Recoded variable namecc_news_sr
Number of cases1,405
Number of categories5
New and old categories0 (‘None’) = 16 (‘None’)
1 (‘Tabloid’) = 3 (‘Mirror’) + 4 (‘Star’) + 5 (‘Sun’)
2 (‘Mid-market’) = 1 (‘Express’) + 2 (‘Mail’)
3 (‘Broadsheet’) = 6 (‘Telegraph’) + 7 (‘Financial Times’)
+ 8 (‘Guardian’) + 9 (‘Independent) + 10 (‘Times’)
4 (‘Other’) = 11 (‘Scotsman’) + 12 (‘Herald’) + 13
(‘Western Mail’) + 14 (‘Other local’) + 15 (‘Other paper’)
Details of the original and recoded types of newspaper readership variables.

Published by joegreenwoodhau

Joe Greenwood-Hau is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Government & Public Policy at the University of Strathclyde, where he works on the Capital, Privilege and Political Participation in Britain and Beyond project.

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