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Top stories in November 2020.

7 min read.

Fiona Lawlor, Research Project Manager

by Fiona Lawlor, Research Project Manager

Core Research

Throughout 2020, COVID-19 has dominated the news headlines and minds of Irish citizens. At the start of October 2020, as Ireland began to consider the toughest restrictions, COVID-19 continued to be the most significant issue to the public.

90% said the implementation of Level 5 restrictions was significant in their life, while 3 weeks later, 89% said the decline in cases was important to them.


Hover over the bubbles to see various news story scores.


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These two COVID-19 stories are the most significant news events, and in joint-third position, the recall of hand sanitisers from schools is a further COVID-19 story which was important to people. Our research fieldwork was complete just before Pfizer announced success with a vaccine, so no doubt this story will bring further hope to Irish people.

There is a growing level of consumer confidence, and our next wave of COVID-19 tracker will reveal this rise.

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This is America

The other story in third position of this month’s most influential news is, of course, the US election. 91% of the Irish public were aware of the election of Biden and Harris, while 65% of this group said it was important or very important to them personally.

As we move towards the end of the year, there maybe signs of the public’s perseverance converting into pragmatism or even positivity about the future.


How do these stories impact how we feel?

The news about declining cases of COVID-19 and Trump’s (stubborn) exit are significant stories influencing the mood of the nation.
It is also worth noting that the majority of the public thought the tragedies in Kanturk and South Dublin were very important. Separately, 61% said the Mother and Baby Homes bill was important to them and 61% of the public said Leo Varadkar admitting he had shared a confidential document was also significantly important to them.

So, not all stories are creating a positive sentiment across the public.


Leo causes minor public anger.

82% of the public were aware about this political story, and 74% said it was important to them personally. In comparison, 72% of the public said GolfGate in August was important to them personally. When asked how they felt about Leo’s behaviour, 21% were disgusted, 16% were angry and 16% were surprised.


When those who believe the US election was important, were asked about their emotional response, 49% said Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s election made them feel happy compared to 3% who were disgusted and 4% who were sad about the result.

Lastly in our emotional response analysis, of those who said it was an important moment, 74% of people said they were happy about the decline in COVID-19 cases, while 7% said they were surprised, and 9% said they had no feeling towards the news.


Happiness and Hope Prevail

So, as we move towards the end of the year, a significant proportion of the population are happy about two key news stories influencing our public sentiment, and possibly providing a relief to a challenging year. 44% of the population say they are happy about the US election results, and 63% say they are happy about the decline in COVID-19 cases in Ireland.



Dolphins, Depp and Disappointment

The disappearance of Fungie, Ireland’s most famous dolphin, grabbed the attention of 4 in 5 members of the public this October.

Those who knew the Dingle local the longest, and those living rurally were most likely to be aware of his disappearance (94% of the elderly population and 91% of those living in rural areas).


The population also looked back on the life and career of James Bond actor Sean Connery this month in light of his passing. 89% of the population was aware of this news.

Lower in the ranking of significant stories this month was the news that actor Johnny Depp’s lost his libel case against The Sun newspaper in relation to domestic violence accusations by his ex-wife Amber Heard. While 79% of the Irish public were aware of this news story, only 17% deemed it to be significant.

In sporting news, Ireland’s defeat against France leading to England’s victory of the Six Nations caught the attention of 56% of the population, while just over a third of those aware felt this story was important or very important (36%). Meanwhile, in GAA news, the return of men’s and women’s football, hurling and camogie senior inter-county championships caught the attention of 52% of the public, with 38% deeming this return to be important or very important. Males were more likely than females to be aware of both the rugby and GAA news (66% and 57% respectively).




The Cultural Index measures the brand campaigns, news stories, debates and topics which occur every month in the country, surveying 1,000 people.

We ask two questions:
– How many people are aware of the news story?
– How important is the story in their life?

From these two scores, we produce the Cultural Index – a 100 point scale indicating how engaged people are with various stories which shape Irish culture.


Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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