The Changing Environment 2010-2015

It was not just the political landscape that altered between 2010 and 2015, we also witnessed a fundamental shift in the way the general public use technology, consume media and, consequently, engage with politics. Smartphone ownership amongst the British public grew from 20% in 2010 (Ipsos MORI 2010b), to 72% at the time of the election in 2015 (Ipsos MORI 2015e), allowing people to access information when and where they liked. Over the same period, we saw a near doubling in the proportion visiting social networking sites; up from 33% in 2010 (Ipsos MORI 2010b) to 59% in 2015 (Ipsos MORI 2015e). With two-thirds of people now accessing the Internet via their mobile phones, demand for immediacy in all aspects of life was rising.

These technological advances and the nature of the televised debates in 2015 posed a number of challenges—and opportunities—for broadcasters and pollsters alike. There was a need to understand both people’s immediate, visceral reactions, as well as the wider role of the debates in the election campaign as a whole. Caroline Lawes and Andrew Hawkins of ComRes, in the 2010 edition of this book, explored the shift in voting intention evident amongst both viewers and non-viewers in the immediate aftermath of the 2010 debates (Lawes and Hawkins 2011). The impact of both the reporting of the debates on non-viewers, as well as the direct influence of the debates on viewers, was evident. The technological and behavioural changes since 2010 meant that in 2015, with a multitude of ways to engage with the debates, their potential to impact viewers and non-viewers alike had only grown larger.

There was also a need, not just to analyse people’s immediate reactions to the debate, but also to cater for 2015’s “real time” culture by providing some form of “in the moment” feedback during and shortly after the debates, alongside the more considered and ongoing investigation into their wider impact.

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