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Which news stories captured the public’s attention in May?

Local elections, the resignation of the Home Secretary, the threat of a nuclear arms race – nothing beats a royal wedding.

Every week, Populus conducts a poll to find out which news story, political or otherwise, the public have paid most attention to during the course of that week. Here we share with Red Box the results for May.

The Windrush scandal topped our poll in the first week of the month, though only 16 per cent of the public said it had been their most noticed story.

The subsequent resignation of Amber Rudd trailed on 11 per cent — roughly the same proportion as those who could not name a story at all.

Anyone in Westminster who believes that local elections grip the nation will be disappointed. The results of those held in early May were the most noticed story for only 4 per cent of the population.

In contrast, the Iran nuclear deal and Donald Trump’s abrupt withdrawal from it claimed the top spot in the same week with 24 per cent, demonstrating again that the public are often far more focused on international affairs than party politics.

But there is nothing like a royal wedding to animate the British public. In the week before it had even happened, the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle blew everything else out the water, with 45 per cent identifying it as the story they had paid most attention to.

It is worth noting here that different stories get noticed by different types of people — almost two thirds of those wedding followers were women. Even so, the wedding was by far the most noticed story of the past two weeks for British men too.

If there was ever a day to bury an unwanted story, it was May 19. Oddly enough, Theresa May nominated nine new Conservative peers to the House of Lords the preceding evening.

Populus interviewed a nationally representative sample of at least 2,000 British adults aged 18 and over each week, and asked what news story they had noticed the most. The question was open-ended and participants could name any story.


Will Clothier

Will is a Senior Research Executive at Populus where he has delivered stakeholder research projects for household names across a range of sectors including sport, telecoms, culture, food, and leisure – advising clients on the views of politicians, journalists, and industry leaders. Recent stakeholder clients include the Premier League and BT.

He researches public opinion quantitatively and qualitatively for political organisations, government departments, and businesses. Recently he has analysed public attitudes towards ‘populist’ economic policies post-Brexit, and the political attitudes of voters in different parts of the country. He works within Populus’s Reputation and Strategy division, having joined the company as a Research Executive. He graduated from Durham University with a first class degree in English Literature and holds the Market Research Society Advanced Certificate with a double merit.

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