The most noticed news stories in August

It is early days for his premiership, but Boris Johnson has demonstrated again that he commands public attention.

His decision to suspend parliament, a move that frustrates attempts to block ‘no deal’, was the public’s most noticed news story last week, eclipsing recall of Brexit for the first time since proroguing parliament was mooted in July.

The prime minister’s manoeuvre overshadowed the announcement of a ‘Remain alliance’ by opposition MPs. At a stroke, Johnson has relegated his opposition’s new strategy to block a ‘no deal’ Brexit to yesterday’s news. Only a handful of respondents said that the Remain alliance was their most noticed story of the week, compared with hundreds talking about the suspension of parliament. This demonstrates that the Government, and not the Remain Alliance, is firmly in control of the narrative.

The suspension of parliament also took precedence over fires raging in the Amazon rainforest (the most noticed story for 9 per cent). That story – as with any relating to climate change – was more likely to pique the interest of those aged 18-34 (14 per cent) than the general public.

Johnson’s pretext for suspending parliament was to set out ‘a new bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda’. But for now at least, the public aren’t concentrating on any news about that agenda. While stories about violent crime sometimes feature among the most noticed, very few people mention Johnson’s pledge to tackle crime by investing in police, or any of his other spending commitments. In contrast, Brits are enthralled with Johnson’s audacious move, which has been denounced by the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, as ‘a constitutional outrage [designed] to stop parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country.’

Inevitably, people are focused on the controversial way in which Johnson is handling Brexit, but the suspension of parliament is designed in part, no doubt, to catch the eye of ardent Leave supporters in anticipation of a possible general election. In today’s fragmented political environment, and facing an opposition leader with historically low approval ratings, that suits the prime minister just fine.

Populus interviews a nationally representative sample of at least 2,000 British adults every week, and asked what news story they had noticed the most. The question is open-ended and participants can name any story.

Will Clothier is a consultant at Populus


Will Clothier

Will is a Consultant 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.