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August 2018 in the news and on social media

Familiar stories dominate silly season

While the parliamentary recess over summer once heralded silly season in the media, this month the public remained focused on the two stories that have been preoccupying them since 2016: Brexit (twice) and Trump. Populus’s Will Clothier writes on both in his monthly column for the Times Red Box. This piece also looks into the fact that, despite creating considerable waves in political and journalistic circles, the Labour antisemitism row was only ever the most noticed news story for, at most, 5% of the British public.

Doing his bit to uphold the traditions of silly season, one of Brexit’s chief architects, Boris Johnson, did manage to manoeuvre himself to top spot in terms of the public’s most noticed stories in the week ending 10 August. His suggestion that women wearing the burka “look like letter boxes” led to widespread condemnation (not least from Populus’s co-founder Andrew Cooper) and an internal party investigation.

But ultimately, there are some things the public cares about more than political soap opera

In fact, only the tragedy of the Genoa bridge collapse garnered more attention than the former foreign secretary, having been mentioned 36% of out respondents in the week ending 17 August. This was also the week of the Westminster car crash, which was the most noticed story for 17% of people.

First results under the new GCSE marking system

As for social media, GCSEs and A levels both caught people’s imagination on Twitter on their respective results days, with a mixture of reminiscences from those who remember the day all too well and nervous anticipation from this year’s cohort. However, some Twitter users noticed something of a recurring pattern in terms of some of the ‘inspirational’ tweets of the day.

Return of the Premier League

As always, football cropped up from time to time, with the return of the Premier League resulting in three matches (including, with respect to Jose Mourinho, #MunTot) being top Twitter trends or Google searches on their respective day. Populus has done extensive work on the perception of the Premier League abroad, with the second edition of the British Icon index (and David Rowson’s commentary on its findings for FC Business [p9]) paying testament to the fact that the league improves people’s impression of the UK across the globe.

Water cooler moments on Twitter

Finally, August saw the return of some of our favourite TV shows. A Love Island Reunion on 5th August was that day’s top Twitter trend while the Great British Bake Off returned on the 28th, prompting us to share perhaps our favourite food-related finding: that the programme seems to be inspiring amateur bakers across the country to bake for charity, with 20% even going as far as to say that cake tastes nicer when baked for a good cause.

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Labour’s antisemitism row hasn’t broken through with the public

While the antisemitism row enveloping the Labour party was widely reported on throughout August, it has never been mentioned by more than 5% of our respondents in any given week. Will Clothier examines what it takes for a news story to have an impact on the public.

Reputation & Strategy   |   Sep 18

Most noticed business news stories in August 2018

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