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Express Group newspapers already on UKIP’s side?

The Daily Express and Daily Star have already effectively declared for UKIP, say Loughborough University researchers.

The formal political declarations of national newspapers on the eve of polling day are an important ritual in UK General Elections.

In most cases, it is easy to predict their final choices, but one of the big questions hanging over this election is whether the Express group newspapers will formally endorse the UK Independence Party.

Speculation has intensified since the announcement that the papers’ proprietor, Richard Desmond, donated £1.3 million to the party.

However research by the University claims that – leaving aside the question of formal declarations – the Express group titles have effectively already declared for UKIP.

Academics from the University’s Communication Research Centre(CRC) are conducting a real time news audit of the 2015 General Election campaign, lifting the lid each week on what media coverage the parties, their policies, MPs and their partners are securing.

They have carried out news audits for every General Election since 1992, enabling them to track reporting patterns and identify any changes.

From this analysis the team have found that positive coverage of UKIP in the Daily Express and Daily Star cumulatively and consistently outweighs negative. This bucks the trend where most newspapers are cumulatively negative in their reporting of UKIP.

Professor David Deacon, one of the research leaders, said: “You don’t normally find the Sun and Mirror agreeing on anything during an election, but both are similarly negative in their treatment of UKIP. This is typical of all other papers, apart from the Daily Express and Daily Star.

“To give just one small but telling example, the Daily Star was the only national newspaper to report the findings of a recent survey by Birds Eye that rated Nigel Farage as the seventh greatest speech maker of the last 100 years.

“It is worth noting that of all the national newspapers the Star offers the least political content and, compared with its rivals, appeals to a younger audience that has been less inclined to vote in recent elections.  Given UKIP is making a serious play for those most disinclined to participate, the backing from Desmond’s papers could be psychologically valuable going into the final stages of a tight race where the Conservatives are trying to undermine support for Farage’s party.”

The team’s full research findings and methodology can be viewed here.