This month was dominated by the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury. Public interest in the story peaked in the second week of March, when the PM expelled 23 Russian diplomats; 68% of those surveyed recalled the story that week.
The only story garnering anything like this level of attention was the weather (25% in the first week of March) with the aftermath of the #BeastFromTheEast and #StormEmma still lingering, as well as the return of cold weather and snow in the third week of March.
The nation learned the news of Stephen Hawking’s death on 14th March. A towering figure in cosmology and a bestselling author, Hawking undoubtedly captured the public’s interest and affection. His death was the second most recalled story among those polled in the second week of last month as tributes flowed in from politicians, scientists and members of the public from across the world.
The story of 50 million Facebook accounts being used to profile and influence the public in votes including the US presidential election and the Brexit referendum broke on the 17th March. Despite gaining traction in print and broadcast media, public interest was relatively low, with 11% and 8% citing it in the third and fourth weeks of March respectively (less than the 12% who recalled the story of Ant McPartlin’s admission to Rehab in week three). Populus has examined the reputational impact of the Cambridge Analytica story on Facebook.
Meanwhile, Brexit remains an ever-present feature of our top ten most noticed news stories, with interest peaking in the first week (following Theresa May’s Mansion House speech setting out her vision of future UK-EU relations) and the third week (following the announcement that terms for a transition arrangement had been agreed). Populus research commissioned by the Royal Society of the Arts shows that 72 per cent of survey respondents feel that they have either not very much, or no influence over how central government is handling Brexit.
In the world of sport, headlines were dominated by the emergence of #tampergate in which members of Australia’s Test cricket team were caught on camera cheating, by using a piece of tape to alter the condition of the ball.
Finally, International Women’s Day cut through amid stories of the gender pay gap and the fallout from #metoo and #Time’sUp, with widespread media coverage focusing on protests and celebrations from around the world. #IWD2018 was the most searched for Twitter trend on the day itself, 8th March, while ‘International Women’s Day’ topped Google searches on the 7th March.