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The News Stories that have influenced Election 2020

7 min read.

Finian Murphy, Marketing Director

by Finian Murphy, Marketing Director


Every month, Core Research asks people about the news stories they have become aware about and how important these stories are in their lives. This provides us with the Cultural Index – a score which tells us what news story matter the most in Irish society. With nearly 1,000 news stories measured since 2015, we have a large database and a strong understanding of the stories which resonate with the public.

When we carried out a special analysis on news stories of the general election campaign 2020, it revealed some interesting results. Analysing 18 stories which occurred in the first two weeks of the campaign (Wednesday 15th – Wednesday 29th January), has provided a perspective of the news headlines which may influence voter outcome.

The top 5 news stories of the campaign

  1. 🏡 Sinn Féin promises 100,000 social and affordable homes.
  2. 🧓🏼 Labour promise to keep the pension age at 66 years old.
  3. 🚫 Fine Gael commit to not going into Government with Sinn Féin.
  4. 🎤 Sinn Féin excluded from RTÉ and Virgin Media’s leaders debates (subsequently reversed).
  5. 💨 Leo Varadkar admits to having taken illegal drugs “a long time ago.”

As our Review of 2019 and our Predict 2020 report suggested, housing has dominated the general election. While health is important, most parties agree on Sláintecare, and therefore housing stories were always going to be critiqued by a generation of voters who rent.

59% of adults were aware of Sinn Féin’s housing proposal, and 68% said this was important to them. In comparison, 41% said they knew about Fianna Fáil promising a saving scheme for first time buyers that would top up savings by one-third and 41% knew about Fine Gael saying it will expand the Help to Buy scheme to €30,000 for first time buyers. Sinn Féin’s housing message has had the greatest cut-through and as a result is the top story of this General Election Cultural Index.



The second story, which many had not predicted, was pensions. In our analysis we tested “Labour promise to keep the pension age at 66 years old,” but several other parties have similar suggestions so the result is probably a reflection on pensions, rather than the specific party policy. 54% were aware of the story and 75% said it was important to them, particularly older voters.

The third story which resonated with people was how “Fine Gael have committed to not going into Government with Sinn Féin.” 59% of adults are aware of this and 50% say this is important to them. However closely behind, in fourth ranking was how “Sinn Féin (was at time of research) excluded from RTÉ and Virgin Media’s leaders debates.” Of the 58% who were aware, 49% said this was important to them. RTÉ subsequently made the decision to invite Sinn Féin, who accepted.

Lastly in fifth place was “Leo Varadkar admitting to having taken illegal drugs a long time ago.” With a high awareness of 66% of people but a low importance score, with only 20% saying this story was important to them. This was the least important story for people but appears in the top five because it was also the story that most people were aware about.

Three of the top five stories which resonated the most had a reference to Sinn Féin, and as the campaign entered the final week, the party was polling higher than current Government party Fine Gael who appeared twice in the top ranking – but neither in terms of their policies.

Over the next few days, another news story may resonate with voters, but with many undecided, it is this list of campaign stories which we believe will have the greatest influence on shaping the general election outcome.


Remainder of list

6. Fianna Fáil promises a saving scheme that would top up savings by 33% for first time buyers.
7. Fine Gael says it will expand the Help to Buy scheme to €30,000 for first time buyers.
8. Labour Party consider introducing 4 day working week.
9. Fianna Fáil claim rent freeze would be unconstitutional.
10. The Green Party promises a Universal Basic Income.
11. The Green Party commits 20% of the transport budget on cycling and walking projects.
12. Fianna Fáil focus on childcare with promise of  €2,000 tax credit per child.
13. Solidarity – People Before Profit call for a grand coalition of the left.
14. Social Democrats pledge to eliminate child poverty over a 5 year term.
15. Green party seek to introduce ‘Site Value Tax’ based on the market value of the land under a property.
16. Aontú leader Peader Tóbín seeks (and subsequently withdraws) a high court injunction after being excluded from RTÉ debate.
17. The Green Party promises to “explore” the scrapping of homework for primary school children.
18. Fianna Fáil promise to publicly name convicted insurance fraudsters.



Research was conducted online with a 1,000 adult sample, representative of the population.
Data was collected between Wednesday 29th January and Tuesday 4th February, but ended before the RTÉ three-way leaders debate.

Participants are asked two questions:

1. In the last 4 weeks which of the following have you heard anything about from friends/family, or in the wider media?
2. How important or not are each of these things to you personally which you’ve heard something about in the past 4 weeks?

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