Survey: two-thirds of Tory comms pros believe mainstream media is biased

A survey by Conservatives in Communications (CiC) has found that two-thirds of its members do not feel the mainstream media provides balanced or unbiased reporting.

CiC members were asked to rate their most and least trusted media outlets (credit: Getty Images)
CiC members were asked to rate their most and least trusted media outlets (credit: Getty Images)

Respondents to the CiC’s Census 2020 survey of 435 comms professionals also gave the Government’s ‘Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives’ slogan a mean average score of 4.5 out of five, but only 3.2 for its overall COVID-19 comms strategy.

More than 70 per cent of CiC members – over half of whom work in public affairs – told the survey they were optimistic about the future of the sector.

Mainstream media

Asking to comment on undisclosed polling that “indicates trust in mainstream media is lower than before the pandemic”, those surveyed were asked whether they believed media outlets were providing balanced and unbiased reporting.

Nearly two-thirds responded that mainstream media outlets were not providing balanced and unbiased reporting, while the remainder said they did.

Asked to give their opinion on how trustworthy they felt a range of media outlets were, financial news service Bloomberg came out top with an average score of 3.8 out of five, followed by the BBC with a score of 3.7.

CiC members rated Russia Today least trustworthy, with a score of 1.5, followed by Al Jazeera, on 2.5.

Government’s COVID-19 comms

The membership of the CiC was dominated by agency professionals, but about five per cent worked for the Government, the Civil Service – including within Downing Street – or the Conservative Party.

Asked to score the Government’s original 'Stay home' slogan, respondents rated it positively, with an average score of 4.5 out of 5.

However, nearly 70 per cent of respondents proposed alternatives to the 'Stay alert' slogan and gave the Government’s overall coronavirus comms strategy an average score of 3.2 out of five.

The survey asked CiC members to rate different comms aspects of the Government’s daily briefings; they gave the setting, podiums and branding the highest average score of 3.8 out of five.

But the duration of the briefings and the variety of spokespeople put forward for them received the lowest average scores, of 3.3 and 3.4, respectively.

Rate the Cabinet

The CiC membership was also asked which Cabinet minister had impressed them the most at the podium since the briefings began.

In what could be a future source of concern for the Prime Minister, 54 per cent said it was the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, while only 15 per cent said Boris Johnson, who came second in the ranking.

In joint last place were culture secretary Oliver Dowden and education secretary Gavin Williamson, who received no votes from respondents.

Working from home

Nearly three-quarters of CiC members said they had flexible working or working from home arrangements before the pandemic and 90 per cent said they would advocate for more of these opportunities after the country returned to normal.

Asked what they liked most about working from home, nearly 80 per cent said they were happy to ditch the commute to work; 60 per cent enjoyed flexible working; and more than 40 per cent said they were more productive.

Asked for their least favourite aspects of home working, 60 per cent missed working with colleagues; close to 60 per cent said it was the blurring of boundaries between home and work; and 45 per cent said they had less time with friends than before.

When asked to rate the statement “I am optimistic about the future of our sector”, respondents gave it an average score of 7.2 out of 10.

CiC demography

A demographic study of the membership found that nearly 70 per cent were under the age of 44 and three-quarters were men.

Meanwhile, on ethnicity, 85 per cent described themselves as white British or Northern Irish, while two per cent were from a black or Afro-Caribbean background. A further two per cent described themselves as Asian British.

An overwhelming majority, 86 per cent, worked in London.

The CiC's Census 2020 was launched on 6 May and ran for two weeks.

CiC relaunch

The organisation is marking a year since it was relaunched by its chair, former Downing Street comms chief and chair of iNHouse Communications Katie Perrior, and principal director Adam Honeysett-Watts.

Commenting on the survey findings, Perrior said: “Our supporters have risen to the challenges posed by the country’s response to the global pandemic. That aside, we’re a people industry – our successes are built on networking and relationships… I, too, look forward to seeing my colleagues and clients, as well as family and friends, in person very soon.”

Honeysett-Watts added: “We spotted an opportunity to relaunch and grow CiC into a more dynamic, proactive, diverse and transparent resource, and the pandemic has shown how much one is needed. While industry networking is the main reason our supporters joined us and continue to be involved, there is appetite for us to offer more.”

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