How political leanings influence accessing news online

Written by Jim Walsh - June 2017

It is no surprise that Ireland is a centrist country when it comes to politics. There has never been a strong left/right axis in political terms in the country’s history.

Since 1932 we have had 20 Governments all led by one of two centrist parties Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael.

The politically centrist nature of the Irish people is highlighted again in a new report on our online habits when it comes to accessing news.

The Reuters Institute Digital News Report for Ireland is a fascinating 100 page document full of facts and figures about Irish online news habits.

It was published last week (22 June) by the Dublin City University’s Institute for Future Media and Journalism (FuJo) in association with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The report on Ireland accompanies a larger global report surveying 70,000 people across 36 markets on five continents by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.

Irish people are by and large huge consumers of news. In this report 70% expressed themselves extremely or very interested in news. The percentage saying that they were not interested in news is down to single digits. More than half of those not interested in news say that it is because they find media news has a negative effect on their mood.

When asked about their political leanings, 67% of those questioned declared themselves to be in the centre politically. 19% said that they were on the left politically and 14% said that they were on the right.

While the variance across the major news brands is relatively small, this survey indicates that consumers of The Irish Times, and Today FM are marginally the most left-wing, whereas consumers of RTÉ Radio, Sky News and Irish Independent Online are marginally the most right-wing.

In Ireland left leaning politicians or political parties are the most popular (53%) in terms of followers on social media with right wing (43%) and then centrist (30%) following in popularity.

Interestingly with gender balance in politics a hot topic in Ireland, this report shows that 39% of men against 26% of women follow a politician or political party on social media.

In terms of age it is not surprising to find that the younger the age group the higher the percentage following politics online. The highest group is the 25-34 year olds (45%), as against 36% of 18-24 year-olds, 21% in the 35-44 age bracket, 28% of those 45-54 and 23% of the 55+.

Following a politician or political party on social media in Ireland (32%) is low compared to most of the other countries studied. In the US, 54% of social media users follow a politician or political party. In the UK the figure is 42% and in Australia 36%. Slightly behind Ireland is Spain 31% and then Germany 25%.

Interest in politics in Ireland is high but maybe not as high as media owners might assume. According to this report only 54% percent of Irish news consumers felt they had a good understanding of political issues.

Of particular note to news organisations is the fact that 68% of respondents across the six countries surveyed, indicated some level of dissatisfaction with media coverage of politics. In Ireland, political followers indicated that:

(1) they preferred to hear directly from chosen politicians [48%];

(2) the information from politicians is more detailed than that from news providers [38%];

(3) media coverage is unfair and does not report on the politicians followed by respondents [29%]; and

(4) the media tends to ignore the politician followed [25%].

Every media and political anorak should read these reports.


The Irish report is available at

and the global report at

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