Trust, confidence, credibility: Citizen responses on Twitter to opinion polls during the 2010 UK general election

Lawrence Ampofo, Nick Anstead, Ben O'Loughlin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores how citizen-users think and communicate about public opinion polling through an analysis of tweets published during and just after the 2010 UK General Election leaders' debate broadcast on Sky News on 22 April 2010, the second of three debates. For those who comment on events in real time through social media such as Twitter, a category we call the 'viewertariat', this event was notable for Sky News's immediate coverage of a YouGov poll that seemed discrepant. Indeed, within an hour of the end of the debate, various mainstream media published a number of polls apparently at odds with each other. Such discrepancies opened a space for lay theories to emerge about relationships between political parties, media, polling firms, and the wider public itself. Individuals were pushed to find explanations and quick to publish them in a public assembly of views. Analysis of these data illuminates not just what people think, but how they think about long-term concerns of scholars and practitioners of politics and political communication, such as credibility, trust and power, and how citizens manage expectations during events where the outcome is uncertain. Accounting for viewertariat behaviour develops recent research on mediatized politics in important ways. First, we find some viewertariat members performing a lay tutelage role, providing information and explanations about polling and elections to fellow citizens who express confusion. This indicates the continued importance of informed public discussion to some citizens. Second, we find a blurring of elite/non-elite interactions alongside persistent theories about elite conspiracies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInformation, Communication and Society
Early online date20 Jun 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • e-democracy; politics; media studies; social networking; Web 2.0

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