Political

Daily Mail: big boost for Lib Dems in poll – but editorial line even more striking

There’s straight-forward good news for the Liberal Democrats in today’s Daily Mail:

A Harris poll for the Daily Mail, the first in-depth survey of the public response, showed him decisively ahead of David Cameron and Gordon Brown on measures of energy, honesty and strength.

The survey of over 1,000 people who watched the clash found 32 per cent intended to back Mr Clegg’s LibDems – level with the Tories – and just 26 per cent Labour.

Those poll results are dramatic – and reflect what we’ve seen in other polls too. But most striking is the Daily Mail’s editorial reaction.

Smart tabloid editors know the dangers if their paper gets too far out of line with the views of the readers. That’s why when there is the occasional story that completely misjudges its readers, the point is rarely repeated. It’s also part of what holds newspapers back from simply trying to lead public opinion in any way they wish.

The Daily Mail’s reaction – knowing of course that many of its readers have now started liking Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats – has been two-fold.

First, the reporting of the story is pretty straight, such as:

Nick Clegg revelled in a surge of support last night after his X Factor-style TV triumph … The result will send shockwaves through both Labour and Conservative high commands … The positive response to Mr Clegg, who pitched himself as an outsider ranged against the two ‘old’ parties, has rattled Conservative strategists. The Tories had been hoping to win around 20 Liberal Democrat seats, mostly in the South and South West.

And so on.

But second, even where the paper runs an op-ed piece putting the boot in to the party’s policies (see the panel from Edward Heathcoat Amory) it’s far more restrained than usual when a tabloid gives something a going over.

Labour and Conservative strategists will certainly be wondering what to do next. So too will many editorial teams.

UPDATE: The Sun repeats the point: it gives the party an unabashed positive write up at the top of its story on the YouGov poll (that it commissioned) which puts the Liberal Democrats in second. It’s not until you get to the twentieth of the short paragraphs that there is a direct negative comment about the party.

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