How does radio influence voters? | radioinfo

How does radio influence voters?

Sunday 16 December, 2012

Study reveals how radio, tv and social media influence voter perceptions of leaders. Statistical research conducted for radioinfo about the effect of different media on political perceptions suggests that radio influences perceptions of strong leadership, tv influences views on compassion and social media influences public opinions about honesty.

Asia-Pacific media intelligence group Sentia Media, recently found that talkback radio callers lean to the political right, preferring Tony Abbott. The study compared the callers to twitter users, who leaned to the left.

Sentia compared how views expressed on Twitter and talkback radio moved in comparison with the mainstream, as measured by Newspoll.

A study of electoral data for radioinfo takes this further, testing the correlation between exposure to different media types and voters’ perceptions of various leadership traits. It will help program directors understand the impact of their political content.

With the increased impact of leader personalities on Australian elections, the perception of our leaders’ traits can swing elections.

Conventional wisdom is that the larrikinism of Hawke helped Labor to secure three consecutive wins, while the mistrust stemming from the broken GST promise almost cost Howard the 1998 election. Gillard’s broken Carbon Tax promise also contributed to a yearlong slump in the polls.

According to political scientist Dieter Ohr, perceptions of strong leadership persistently impact the vote in Australian elections by around 1%. In marginal seats, this can be a make-or-break factor.

Whether exposure to different media types impacts the perception of leadership traits is under-researched, especially in the area of radio’s impact, until now.

Using multivariate regression analysis of publicly available data, the radioinfo study found that there was a strong correlation between radio consumption and voters’ opinion on whether the major parties were led strongly.


Focusing on the period between 1998 and 2010, voters listening to radio were on average 10% more likely to recognise major party leaders as having a strong hold on their front and back bench. Similar results were found for regular television viewers as well - but not for regular newspaper or internet news consumers.


There was also 5% correlation found between another important but slightly less influential leadership trait - compassion. However, television had a larger and more consistent correlation in this area. The correlation was not found between the other two media types.


In a potentially startling indication of the new media landscape’s impact on politics, the internet had very large negative effects on perceptions of honesty - up to -18%. This implies that someone who follows political news on the internet was 18% less likely to believe John Howard was honest than those not reading internet news.


The research confirms that radio and television - perhaps by putting voices and faces to names - positively humanises politicians, and allows them to seem more authoritative. As social media further develops as a competitor in news delivery these effects may be reversed, causing politicians to be heavily mistrusted.

Social media has only been a force in political news since 2004, so it will make for a fascinating area of future research. But if these trends continue, it seems that politicians will need radio and tv more than ever in the face of potential negative sentiment caused by social media. 


This study was conducted in Canberra during November 2012, using publicly available electoral data and political science statistical analysis techniques.

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