Election 2011 »

  • Another blog about the role of social media

    February 28, 2011 @ 11:35 am | by Éanna Ó Caollaí

    It’s almost a given these days that commentary and analysis on the role of social media has to follow events of national or international importance.

    Rightly scrutinised when it comes to its role in the organisation of social movements, what’s often forgotten is that the vast majority of people actually use the medium as a source of entertainment.

    While it undoubtedly proved a valuable resource for those seeking up-to-date information on the election at the weekend, Twitter offered an irreverent and sometimes insulting commentary on the apparent seismic change taking place at the heart of Irish politics.

    One of the most popular comments was comedian Dara O’Briain’s tweet echoing Norwegian sports commentator Bjørge Lillelien’s famous taunt to Maggie Thatcher after Norway beat England in 1981.

    “Brian Cowen, Sean Lemass, Eamonn DeValera – your boys took a hell of a beating”, tweeted the famous man from Bray.

    Whe Twitter suffered some outage for a period on Saturday afternoon, some were quick to remark:

    “Well we broke the world economy so breaking Twitter was no big deal really”, quipped one (@diarmaidm) . There was little sympathy for the outgoing Government parties. “FF unemployment rates now comparable to the rest of the country”, tweeted another (@edelindublin).

    Finding itself out of office, there was some advice for Fianna Fail and how it might ferry its surviving TDs around: “Fianna Fáil, remember all the fuss about state cars…there’s so few of them left now u could probably fit them into a mini-bus” (@danohaoadh).

    There was little sympathy for outgoing Government TDs “Fianna Fail haven’t been this hammered since the Galway Races tent“. Another alluded to Paul Gogarty’s concession tweet: “Several green twitter accounts now in serious jeopardy” (@gerlad007).

    And if the newly-elected think they’ll have an easy run of it, they should really think again.

    “Many people turning in their unmarked unfound unidentified graves”, tweeted one @brendanmccormac (in response to Sinn Féin’s electoral sucess).

    Mick Wallace was also the subject of some attention with writer Colm Toibin reminding us all that “Mick Wallace was right to leave Def Leppard after all.“ (@colmtoibin)

    While some might be happy to put Election 2011 behind them, others are already suffering withdrawal symptoms.

    “I now dont know what to do with my life. #ge11 is over.” (@roche649)

    The following is a selection of the weekend’s top election tweets:

    @daraobriain: Brian Cowen, Sean Lemass, Eamonn DeVelera – your boys took a hell of a beating #ge11

    @PaulGogartyTD: 10% of tallies counted. All in my strong area. Loads of 2, 3, 4, which is comforting, but not enough No. 1s. I concede, with good grace.

    @suzybie: And the @PaulgogartyTD twitter account is no more

    @edelindublin: FF unemployment rates now comparable to the rest of the country. Well done everybody! Well played

    @colmtoibin: Turns out Mick Wallace was right to leave Def Leppard after all.

    @PaulaMcCarville: Uninstalling Fianna Fail 99% complete Installing now Ireland 2.0

    @gedrobinson: So what’s going to be the ‘Portillo’ moment? Mary Coughlan?

    @kowalshki: Mick Wallace TD. Football is the real winner today.

    @diarmaidm On breaking Twitter: Well we broke the world economy so breaking Twitter was no big deal really

    @AllanCavanagh: Nice to see the people of Louth are welcoming Gerry Adams with open armalites

    @gavreilly: I wish politicians could be as honest every day as they are on count day

    @aidandisney: LOL. Dylan Haskins is on 1383. He has more followers on Twitter. (even though they’re probably all not old enough to vote.. but still)

    @danohaoadh Fianna Fail,remember all the fuss about state cars…there’s so few of them left now u could probably fit them into a mini-bus:D

    @LemonShmush: Aww Willie O’Dea! Chin up. Where are the Rubberbandits when you need them? #ge11

    @brendanmccormac: Many people turning in their unmarked unfound unidentified graves.

    @gerlad007: Fianna Fail haven’t been this hammered since the Galway Races tent

    @bothyhead: My local #FG sitting TD has just lost his seat. To be honest, he has been a non-entity for the past 4 years.

    @tubridytweets: Ming Flanagan, Mick Wallace, etc. There is going to be a LOT of hair in the 31st Dail.

    @CelticOirish: Several green twitter accounts now in serious jeopardy.

    @missynell: I wonder if FrankFaheyTD will keep following me on The Twitter after he becomes plain old FrankFahey. #ge11 #gyw

    @mor_rigan: #ge11 is addictive. Knackered and in bed but can’t resist checking the twitter

    @Mark6R: All those years I thought RTE showed all of the election counts live, thanks to twitter I now know better #wontgetfooledagain #ge11

    @Albert_baba: The bloody Mary massacre Are there any TDs called Mary left? It’s a Maryicide! Coughlan, Hanafin, O’Rourke – all gone. #ge11

    @roche649: I now dont know what to do with my life. #ge11 is over.

    @FancyONancy: Have broken F5 key trying to keep up to speed on @DonnellyStephen’s progress in #wicklow #GE11 count. So tense!

    @knifewrench1: Eugh, I hope FG fix the economy and Enda turns out to be a great Taoiseach. But I still retain my right to dislike them immensely.

    @TomSwanick: How many times are us Irish going to vote for jobs before we realise voting for them doesn’t create them?

  • Turnout a healthy engagement

    February 26, 2011 @ 9:55 am | by Éanna Ó Caollaí

    Whether an implicit endorsement of any one political party or not Friday’s high turnout certainly indicates a healthy engagement with politics on the part of the electorate.

    Exit poll results suggest that Fine Gael will become the largest party in the State but will not achieve the coveted overall majority. Despite losing the initiative in the penultimate week in the campaign, the Labour Party has somehow pulled its campaign out of the fire in the last few days and is seemingly on track for its best ever electoral result.

    That said, voting behaviour on the part of this electorate is of course volatile and is difficult to predict ahead of the last vote being counted – particularly when the unpredictable nature of transfer trends is taken into account.

    Transfers may yet prove crucial in determining the final outcome but the prospect of another coalition government certainly does loom large.

    Failing that, it will be interesting to see to what degree Independents are courted – considering how much was made of putting an end to clientism and parish pump politics during the campaign.

    Ironically enough, Labour’s turnabout at the ballot box may well be down a combination of Eamon Gilmore’s conciliatory approach to Enda Kenny in the final televised debate along with  Micheál Martin whose bulldog-like approach saw the Fine Gael leader being challenged on the substance of his party’s policies.

    Despite the popularity of their party leader, predictions of a Fianna Fáil collapse have not been wide off the mark and they look like being beaten into fourth place in the Dublin party rankings behind Sinn Féin.

    Remarkably, Fianna Fáil may now depend on transfers from Sinn Féin to get some of its candidates across the line in some areas but do not count out the possibility of some heavy-hitters losing their seats.

    Whether the high turnout is due to a fear of radical freewheeling cuts or merely a desire to get rid of Fianna Fáil, the Labour Party should now be in a position to scrutinise and influence future government policy.

    Fine Gael and Labour are clearly based on different ideologies and any negotiation is sure to be a protracted affair.

    Nonetheless, it is worth remembering that elections are a check on government power and if a coalition government is the end result then we should see a more consensus-based approach and a better reflection of the popular opinion of the electorate.

  • Labour’s lost challenge

    February 21, 2011 @ 10:28 pm | by Éanna Ó Caollaí

    Will Fianna Fáil surprise us all and rebound at the ballot box? Can Labour overcome its current difficulties to become the second largest party in the State? Will traditional Fianna Fáil voters cross the Rubicon and vote for Fine Gael?

    While this particular election has been described as uneventful by some it has thrown up some questions about the make-up of our political parties and how the public might react to them come election day.

    The latest Irish Times Ipsos/Mrbi poll shows a huge variation in voting intentions when compared to the poll carried out in September 2010.

    Just three points now separate Fianna Fáil and Labour and (as any self-respecting psephologist will tell you) it brings both parties to within the same margin of error.

    This raises the previously unlikely prospect of the parties now having to fight it out to become the State’s second largest party.

    If Labour were to lose that fight it would represent a thundering defeat for a party that just a few short months ago looked as though it was on the cusp of becoming the largest party in the next government.

    The scale of the collapse in the potential Labour vote is not dissimilar to that predicted for Fianna Fáil – but could nonetheless prove harder to explain.

    At least Fianna Fáil has its long record in government to call on by way of explanation!

    For Fianna Fáil this election is widely accepted to be about damage limitation. A share of 20 per cent or more of the vote and/or holding off Labour (and to a lesser extent Sinn Féin) to win second place in the party rankings would be a great result for the soldiers of destiny.

    That explains the belief held by some that Fianna Fáil has taken a back-seat in this campaign.

    The challenge facing the Labour Party is more significant and the explanation for its malaise more difficult to ascertain.

    The conditions were ripe for the party to grow its representation in the Dáil and anyone would be forgiven for thinking Labour’s time had come.

    There was a hunger for change on the part of the electorate.  Not only that, but there was a suggestion in the September 2010 poll, in which Labour scored 34 per cent, that the partisan political identities traditionally associated with Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were beginning to crumble.

    Political, social and economic events (most notably the loss of sovereignty to the IMF/EU) in the run-up to this election suggested the real possibility of an end to this decades-long divide.

    However, the enduring political relationships forged by the Civil War are deeply ingrained and some commentators predict a bump at the polls on election day for Fianna Fáil.

    Why is this – one reason is that voters often revert to type in the private confines of the ballot booth. Another is attributable to the lack of a viable alternative.

    During political campaigns, voters are susceptible (and often open) to  influence from all sorts of factors. These factors include campaign events, meeting a politician on canvass,  party stances on the issues of the day and previous governmental competence shown by candidates.

    The latter is clearly a significant factor in this election and explains the seismic drop in support for Fianna Fáil. For Labour, the criticism is that it was long on rhetoric but short on policy in the run-up to the election.

    There will of course be a shift in the middle ground. Fianna Fáil has lost the floating voters but the party loyalists are another matter. They are hoping to sow the seeds of rebirth.

    For Labour party strategists the apparent collapse is a disaster. It comes at a time when the party should be in the ascendant but instead it finds itself facing the very stark possibility of life back on the opposition benches.

    The perception is that Fine Gael has controlled the electoral discourse to date and that the Labour Party has been in purely reactive mode and relegated to playing catch-up since the day Brian Cowen sought the dissolution of the Dáil from President McAleese.

    Politicians correctly warn of the inaccurate nature of opinion polls but once public opinion starts to slide it can be hard to arrest and the latest poll finding which shows support collapsing by almost 50 per cent in just a few months, cannot be ignored by Labour party strategists.

    Traditionally, we are told,  voters ease-off from supporting political parties once opinion polls record them nearing the 40 per cent mark required for an overall majority. This is attributed to a perceived aversion in the Irish electorate to single-party power.

    Labour party strategists will have to pin some of their hopes on such a sentiment as voting day approaches.

  • Martin, Fianna Fáil and the toxic brand

    February 17, 2011 @ 2:07 pm | by Eoin Burke Kennedy

    Can you imagine being at the helm of a major corporation, tasked with selling its brand in multiple markets albeit with one proviso: you can’t refer to it, at least not directly.

    Essentially, this is the predicament Micheál Martin finds himself in.

    In Monday’s televised debate, the Fianna Fáil leader defended his party’s policies in typically combative style, unleashing a few well-aimed salvos at opponents along the way.

    For the 93 minutes he was on his feet, he never once mentioned the words Fianna Fáil.

    The brand is now so toxic that even its leader, the commander and chief, dare not speak its name. The party’s logo on some of its election posters is so small that it’s almost impossible to discern from a distance. Even the Facebook and Twitter logos are on average bigger than the party’s.  In Wednesday  night’s TG4 debate, Martin was similarly ill-disposed to make direct references to the party.

    The Fianna Fáil is being advised by US political consultant Tad Devine, a strong exponent of the principle: “you never mention the contaminated product”.

    Doubtless, the tactic is to distance the candidates from the party’s past, no mean feat when you’ve been in government for 17 of the last 20 years.

    Martin’s constant mantra about a fresh approach to politics and his strong stance on Dáil reform signal his desire to break with the party’s tarnished legacy.

    However, the problem for Martin and Fianna Fáil is that they cannot escape their responsibility for so much of what went wrong. Party insiders quietly concede that there is little Fianna Fáil can do to avoid the imminent electoral bloodbath.

    John Fanning, who lectures in branding and marketing communications at Smurfit Business School, believes Martin will not be in position to embark on a “New Labour-like” rebranding process until after the election when he will have freehand to appoint his own shadow cabinet and voter anger at this administration subsides somewhat.

    The fact that the party is not spending money on a national advertising campaign is proof, if proof were needed, that it has already “ceded defeat”, he says.

    “What Martin is doing is running a campaign to minimise seat losses and to position Fianna Fáil to make some kind of respectable showing at next election [in five years time]. It’s a damage limitation exercise.”

    Despite the dramatic collapse in support, Fanning believes the party is still the most professionally run vote-getting organisation in the country. “There’s no reason to suggest that a lot of the expertise is not still there.”

    A party in its position has little alternative but to target a select number of seats where it has done well previously and push aspect of the candidates’ personality or record that still sells, says Fanning.

    “They’re better off spending money on market research in these constituencies where they do have a chance of holding seats rather than on a national campaign,” he says.

    A well-placed insider said Martin was taking what he described as the bad dog approach; he’s eaten his master’s slippers and knows he has to go out into the back garden for a couple of years.

    “There’s no point in Fianna Fáil buying into a big brand concept to communicate with the electorate because they know they’re screwed and it would only be a waste of money.”

    In contrast, Fine Gael is running a national advertising campaign under the rather bland slogan “Let’s Get Ireland Working” which has a faint echo of the famous Saatchi & Saatchi Tory campaign slogan “Labour’s Not Working”.

    Because of the well-publicised problems with selling Kenny as a future taoiseach to the electorate, the party is promoting him as the chairman, fronted by a team of heavy-hitters like Varadkar, Noonan and Bruton.

    One individual, who worked on the party’s campaign, said there was nothing new in Fine Gael’s strategy as it has struggled in the past to get its leaders to be viewed as taoiseach material.

    “John Bruton was widely criticised before he got in and was subsequently seen to have done a good job. Kenny may be on a similar trajectory,” he suggested.

    “It is not unusual for Fine Gael to have a leader who doesn’t set the world on fire before he gets in but ends up doing a competent job when he does.”

    He cites Brian Farrell’s famous book, Chairman or Chief: The role of the Taoiseach in Irish government, saying Fianna Fáil tend to go for chiefs while Fine Gael tend to opt for consensus building chairmen.

    Several observers said it was a testament to Kenny’s abilities that barely a year after a divisive assault on his leadership, he was fronting a united team which stands on the brink of election victory.

    In contrast to Fine Gael, Labour’s campaign has been focused solely around Eamon Gilmore, reflecting the leader’s strong standing in polls.

    However, critics have claimed the “Gilmore For Taoiseach” slogan has not resonated with voters.

    One party insider conceded the campaign was having more success in Dublin than elsewhere. He said each of the three main parties was “very deliberately” playing to their strengths, with Fine Gael projecting a strong team image in contrast to Labour and Fianna Fáil who remain focused on the attributes of their “charismatic” leaders.

    Election posters, he said, have as much to do with the morale of the troops as they have with persuading voters.

    “Of course, they’re about getting candidates into the minds of voters but they’re also about reassuring activists that the party believes in itself. The day you are ashamed of your brand is the day you are losing,” he said.

  • Foclóir díospóireachta

    February 16, 2011 @ 5:35 pm | by Éanna Ó Caollaí

    While tonight’s TG4 debate will be subtitled the following glossary might come in handy…

    Seafóid/ráiméis – rubbish

    Athrú – change

    Ciorraithe – cuts

    Tubaist eacnamaíochta - Economic disaster

    Liúntas dífhostaíochta - unemployment assistance

    Fiacha lofa – bad loans

    Bréag – lie

    Sochraid – funeral

    Marbhánta – lifeless, stagnant

    Toghchán -   olltoghchán

    Cárta vótála – voting card

    TD -  Teachta Dála

    Labour – Páirtí an Lucht Oibre

    Comhaontas Glas - Green Party

    Bosca ballóide – ballot box

    Páipéar ballóide/vótála - ballot paper

    Feachtas – campaign

    Ciste infheistíochta – investment fund

    Iarrthóir -  candidate

    Canbhasáil - canvas

    Toghchánaíocht - electioneering

    Comhrialtas – coalition

    Rialtas – government

    Comhréiteach –   compromise

    Daonlathas – democracy

    Aire – minister

    Polasaithe – policies

    Polaiteoir – politician

    Cumhacht – power

    Suíochán – seat

    Dáilcheantar – constituency

    Fothoghchán – byelection

    Feachtas toghchánaíochta -  election campaign

    Toradh – result

    Comhaireamh – count

    Seasamh i dtoghcháin – standing in the election

    An fhreasúra – the opposition

    Ceannaire - leader

    Ceannaire an fhreasúra – leader of the opposition

    Bunreacht - constitution

    Páirtí freasúra – opposition party

    Vóta a chaitheamh – cast a vote

    Lá vótála - voting  day

    Pobalbhreith – opinion poll

    Stáisiún vótála    – voting station

    Ainmniúchán - nomination

    Tromlach - majority

    Mionlach – minority

  • Ned warns of a military coup

    @ 4:18 pm | by Éanna Ó Caollaí

    While the winds of change continue to blow furiously across the Arab world, the lastest warning by Cork TD Ned O’Keeffe that Ireland might be next is sure to raise more than a few heckles.

    Mr O’Keeffe (whose son Kevin is standing for Fianna Fail in the Cork East constituency) has warned of the very real possibility of a military coup.

    According to a report published in today’s Evening Echo, Mr O’Keeffe said “The situation has become so bad that an Army coup is a real possibility.”

    Blaming Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan for bringing us to the edge of destruction, Mr O’Keeffe issued the following warning:

    “Our political system is going to fail further. The two Brians have made a right mess of the country and I see the real possibility of an Army coup.

    “People thought I was mad with all the things I have predicted through the years, but I foresaw the economy collapsing due to lax regulation on building housing estates and unwanted shopping centres.”

    Reeling in the years, Mr O’Keeffe harked back to Fianna Fáil’s Golden Era and the reign of a certain Charles J Haughey.

    “So what if Charlie liked nice women and a few extra nice shirts? He was the best leader we ever had.”

  • FF leader Martin in Chinese gaffe

    February 14, 2011 @ 4:00 pm | by Éanna Ó Caollaí

    Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin made something of a gaffe this morning by unwisely adopting a Chinese accent during a meeting of the Dublin Web Summit, where he had been asked to outline his party’s innovation policy. Laura Slattery was there to witness it.

    Recalling a trade mission to China when he was minister for enterprise, Martin described what he felt was Ireland’s reputation for hosting software companies: “Whenever I met Chinese ministers or officials, particularly as enterprise minister, there was one sort of overriding refrain from them or demand.

    And they kept on saying to me, [adopts foreign accent] you Irish, very good at software. [Reverts to his own accent.] And they identified Ireland as a software centre,” he said.

    An audio recording of the accented six words has been posted on YouTube, where it has been given the title “Micheál Martin Channels David Brent with Chinese Accent” (in reference to the cringeworthy boss from The Office) and been viewed by around 300 people so far.

    The gaffe has led to accusations of racism by Twitter and online forum users. Indeed, some have linked Martin’s unfortunate method of re-enacting an overseas conversation with his party colleague Conor Lenihan’s distinctly more unpleasant 2005 reference to Turkish construction workers as “kebabs”.

    Lenihan was forced to apologise for that remark, which has stuck to his CV. It remains to be seen whether the former minister for foreign affairs will do the same.  Here’s the clip:http://tiny.ly/zkAs

  • Guide aims to tame political jargon

    February 10, 2011 @ 1:57 pm | by Eoin Burke Kennedy

    The National Adult Literacy Agency (Nala) has re-issued its plain English guide to political terms in advance of the election.

    The 54-page booklet, containing more than 400 political definitions, is free to download on the agency’s website.

    It is a noble attempt to scythe through the jargon. But it’s also revealing of the political landscape from which it springs.

    The guide contains definitions for brown envelopes, whistleblowers, dirty politics, spin, mudslinging, fat cats and lame duck leaders.

    It even makes a valiant attempt to simplify the Single Transferable Vote, the intricacies of which still baffle seasoned election folk.

    On page 35, it defines “a pledge” as a solemn promise to do something, usually made when somebody “takes” a high-level official role.  Surely,  the authors must have meant “made before taking a high-level official role”.

    The guide also feels obliged to explain “bandwagon effect”;  the tendency for a candidate or proposal that seems to be winning to gather extra support simply because of being ahead; also called the “snowball effect”.

    A fat cat is defined as a slang term for a wealthy, influential person who contributes a lot of money to a political party or campaign.

    The definition of a balanced budget – a government’s annual budget in which income (for example from taxes) is equal to spending – might,  arguably, be superfluous at this stage.

    “These days, politicians are accused of beating around the bush when it comes to speaking their mind about important issues. Using plain English is a more efficient and fair way of communicating with people,” says Nala director Inez Bailey.

  • How did Martin win with the country in receivership?

    February 9, 2011 @ 12:24 pm | by Eoin Burke Kennedy

    Regardless of who was perceived as the winner of last night’s debate, the clash seems to have ignited the campaign proper and that has to be a good thing.

    Most postmortems gave Martin a marginal victory on points. Pundits, however, agreed that both leaders had delivered a good debate. Key point for me was when Gilmore accused Martin of being a “late convert” to political reform, rubbishing the idea of FF bringing new proposals to the table after 14 years in office.

    This had been perceived as a penalty kick for Gilmore. What was unexpected was Martin’s strong defence that he was just as entitled as the Labour leader, who has been in the Dáil for 30 years, to bring out new proposals.

    Gilmore did score points on Martin, accusing him of commissioning more than 40 reports during his time as minister for health: “You did more reports than you did reforming,” he claimed.

    The Labour leader also stood his ground well on the question of renegotiating the EU/IMF deal, insisting he was right to refer to “Frankfurt’s way or Labour’s way”.

    “I make no apology at all for making a strong statement on behalf of the people of this country. That’s what this country needs. We need some leadership,” he said.

    Gilmore’s frequent references to Martin as minister had to have been deliberate.

    But viewers will go away wondering how, with the country essentially in receivership, does an opposition leader end up spending most of an hour-long debate defending his policy positions.

    Incumbents the world over typically attempt to tarnish opposition parties with the old “flip-flopping on policy” tag. It’s the oldest trick in the book. FF leaders have mined this seam to great success in the past. Ahern destroyed Kenny with this stick in 2007.

    And Martin had Gilmore on the back foot with it again last night. He told Gilmore that anyone watching “the various utterances you have come with … will know that you have chopped and changed every three months the way the wind was blowing”.

    Martin is, no doubt, one of the best debaters in Fianna Fáil, if not the best. The first thing he sought, when taking over the leadership of the party, was for a series of leaders’ debates.

    And last night’s contest showed him at home in the medium.

    Many wondered had Gilmore’s handlers advised him to exercise restraint; no anger, no pointing etc. If so, it doesn’t seem to have paid off.

    We’re used to seeing Gilmore to the fore in the Dáil under a pretty rigid format which offers combatants two uninterrupted bursts to make their rehearsed points. It’s different to the cut and thrust of real debate. It seems most people expected more Gilmore.

    Another surprise element of the debate that caught many off-guard was Vincent Browne’s monastic restraint in his new role as moderator.

  • Study reveals impact of TV debates on voters

    February 8, 2011 @ 12:43 pm | by Eoin Burke Kennedy

    Enda Kenny’s decision not to take part in tonight’s televised leader’s debate has dominated media coverage of the campaign thus far. Just how his stance will go down with voters is difficult to assess at this stage. However, a new study on voter reaction to last year’s televised leaders’ debates in the UK is quite revealing.

    It found first-time voters “formed a special relationship with the prime ministerial televised debates in striking contrast to their more jaded elders”. The leaders of the three main political parties, Gordon Brown (Labour), David Cameron (Conservative) and Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat) took part in three televised debates in the run up to the general election last May.

    This is the first academic study using a large-scale, nationally-representative sample of the UK population into how voting behaviour was affected by the debates. The research, conducted for the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University, showed more than half (55 per cent) of 18-24 year olds said that as a result of having seen the first debate they had become “more interested in the campaign”.

    This contrasts with less than a third (31 per cent) of the 40-54 year-olds and just under a quarter (24 per cent) of the respondents aged 55 and older. Revealingly, the study also found nearly three-quarters (74 per cent) of first-time voters said that they had learnt something about the parties’ policies from the debates, compared with 63 per cent of those aged 55 and older.

    Stephen Coleman, professor of political communications at the University of Leeds delivered the results of the study in last night’s Reuters Institute/BBC David Butler Lecture.

    “Importantly, half of the 18-24 year-olds in our sample said the debates had helped them to make up their minds about how to vote,” Prof Coleman said.  “We note that turnout amongst 18-25 year-olds increased by seven percentage points in last year’s election, three points higher than the average increase in turnout compared with 2005.

    “While I cannot claim that this was a direct effect of watching the televised debates, I doubt very much that it was an unrelated effect,” he said.

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