Dataset for Content Analysis of Media Coverage of the 2015 British General Election

This study was conducted as part of the ESRC Media in Context and The 2015 General Election: How Traditional and Social Media Shape Elections and Governing award. It was timely and important in an era of declining support for the major parties. In the last two elections the leading parties have formed governments with roughly 35% of the vote, with 2015 at the time of the research promising a similar scenario and possibly another coalition. The election also promised debates - including more leaders' debates- on major constitutional issues pertaining to national and regional devolution and their consequences for Westminster, as well as on the possibility of a referendum on continuing EU membership, all in a context of continuing austerity. Media reporting and framing of such subjects was likely to be critical to the dynamics of the election, to public opinion, and to the election's aftermath. Yet although their effects on voters have consumed research on electoral politics in Britain, the US and other democracies since the 1940s, the question of media effects remains unsettled. Moreover, the issue of the difference that social media has made, supplementing or replacing the information provided by traditional media - television, newspapers and radio - further muddied the waters. In this research the team sought to address several pressing questions pertaining to media effects on governance and elections and also to gather timely and high quality data on media coverage during and after the 2015 British General Election, to share with the user community.

These data consist of analysis of media coverage of the 2015 British General Election. Media included are national newspapers, local newspapers, national and regional television news, and radio. The complete list of outlets is included in the codebooks.

The substantive questions examined were: The flow of campaign information. Traditional academic models depict campaign information flows as linear, from elites to opinion leaders to masses, but this may no longer be accurate in a world in which social media can provide a platform for opinion leaders (and masses) to produce information. While some think that social media have made opinion leaders even more important, others argue that it has cut them out of the picture, with information flowing directly to the consumer. The changing media landscape matters in a second way - not in terms of the flow of information but, more straightforwardly, for where if at all people obtain political information in a world of declining newspaper readership and trust in media. Moreover, the traditional media no longer play the same gatekeeping role, potentially diluting their influence on the issue agenda. For example, traditional campaigns in the UK followed a pattern in which parties held morning press conferences that launched the 'theme of the day'. While the media may not have always framed the theme in the way parties would have wished, the press conference set the issue agenda for 24 hours. That no longer seems to be the case. The role of the media, both social and traditional, in the post-election period. Interpretations of election results may be important in two respects: in conferring legitimacy upon the outcome and thus fostering what is sometimes known as "losers' consent", and in providing a narrative about the mandate the incoming government enjoys. The study also addressed four deficiencies in existing studies of British media election coverage: that they tend to focus on election coverage, ignoring non-election coverage and thus not permitting analysis of the overall news context or the prominence of the election as an issue; that the data are either not made publicly available or only made available years after the election; that recent British election studies have permitted little understanding of media effects due to very few questions about media habits; and that British media studies tend to rely exclusively on survey data, ignoring the benefits for establishing causation and effect sizes offered by field experiments. The proposed research brought together investigators with a unique combination of expertise in human and automated traditional and social media content analysis and statistical modelling skills.

Elections, Media, Social behaviour and attitudes
Political science and international studies

Cite this dataset as:
Banducci, S., Cioroianu, I., Coan, T., Katz, G., Kolpinskaya, E., Stevens, D., 2017. Dataset for Content Analysis of Media Coverage of the 2015 British General Election. UK Data Service. Available from:


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Susan Banducci
Rights Holder
University of Exeter

Iulia Cioroianu
Rights Holder
University of Exeter

Travis Coan
Rights Holder
University of Exeter

Gabriel Katz
Rights Holder
University of Exeter

Ekaterina Kolpinskaya
Rights Holder
University of Exeter

Daniel Peter Stevens
Rights Holder
University of Exeter


Temporal coverage:

From 1 February 2015 to 30 May 2015

Geographical coverage:

United Kingdom


Data collection method:

Transcription of existing materials

Additional information:

The content analysis data can be linked to the British Election Survey Wave 5, which has been included in the study with additional variables at the end of the files. The additional variables are derived from the open ended variables pertaining to media use asked in the BES (tv1_1, tv2_1, tv3_1, radio1_1, radio2_1, radio3_1, paper1_1, paper2_1, paper3_1, internet1_1, internet2_1, internet3_1). The new variables are named paper1, paper2, paper3, internet1, internet2, internet3, tv1, tv2, tv3, radio2, radio1 and radio3. Users of the data may either wish to link all the content of the outlets used by an individual respondent to a measure of media exposure or to weight it by frequency of use of that media. Frequency of use is contained in the BES file in variables infoSourceTV, infoSourcePaper, infoSourceRadio and inforSourceInternet. The original BES data used can be downloaded from Wave 5 of the 2014-2018 British Election Study Internet Panel.


Economic and Social Research Council

Media in Context and The 2015 General Election: How Traditional and Social Media Shape Elections and Governing

Publication details

Publication date: 8 June 2017
by: UK Data Service

Version: 1


URL for this record:

Contact information

Please contact the Research Data Service in the first instance for all matters concerning this item.

Contact person: Iulia Cioroianu


Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences
Social & Policy Sciences

Research Centres & Institutes
Institute for Policy Research (IPR)