in Trust

Quote from a MORI report, ‘You are what you read?’ (2004). It may seem strange to focus on the impact of newspapers at a time when most attention is on the new crises they are facing, with the proliferation of news sources, falling advertising revenues and declining circulation. However, we still have one of the largest and most diverse newspaper markets in the world, with over 60% of people (some 35 million) still regularly reading a daily or Sunday newspaper. Newspapers still have a huge reach, and their influence leaks into other sections of the media.

 1. According to this, what is the newspaper reading population (of the UK)?  Express an opinion, given that the UK population at the time was over 65 million.

2. Allowing that the numbers used were filled with non-significant zeros, so to only one (60%) or two (35) sig fig, explore the possible alternatives to Q1. Compare this with whatever you think the newspaper reading population is – good students will find a way of justifying their choice.

The table is from P30 of the report. 

3. What % of MPs were contributing answers? [How many MPs are there? This will, probably, change in 2020]. 

4. Given the figures, estimate how many papers the general public reads (E.g. I often read two, but only buy one a week) and compare that with how many you think an MP reads.

5. If this sample is useful to the extent that it can be interperted as typical for the whole of Parliament, discuss how many papers you think are actually purchased and present weithin the Houses of Parliament on any weekday.

Now here’s a table that you can stare at for ages. I have no idea what ‘influence’means, but let us assume that the topic is the standard of exams, so we might be talking about the steady ‘dumbing down’ of results, or trying to explain the steady rise in the proportion of the highest grades a and A*. This study was made before the change from lettered grades to numbered ones. So ‘influence’ means that you take on board an opinion as if it is fact, while trust is a measure of the extent to which you believe what is clearly presented as fact. we are assuming that fact and opinion are different things but we accept that it is often difficult to distinguish between them. This, you might argue, is fundamental to politics.

6. Teachers are among the most trusted professions (all medics, all in education). while media and politicians are among the least trusted. Typical ‘trust measures' are opposites, so if teachers are at 80%, politicans are at 20%.  Conversely, this means that 20% of people don’t believe or trust teacher (or all teachers, or one in particular) and 80% don’t trust a politician (and 20% do trust at least one politician).  Write a paragraph about how you think you might respond to similar questions. Be aware that the MORI question goes like this, “Now I will read you a list of different types of people. For each would you tell me if you generally trust them to tell the truth, or not?”

7. A recent report (May 2018) says that very few employers know which of teh new grades 1 to 9 is the ‘good’ one.  Suppose a parent you know reports reading (assume newspaper, rated as as trustworthy as a politician) that a 4 is a ‘pass’.   How then do you think the same adult will view a 3 or a 4? Try to use some maths on this….

8. CSE was a lower form of GCSE and ran from 1965 to 1987. A CSE grade 1 was fantastic, because so few were awarded and the only grade rated as equivalent to  an ‘O’ level (more like Higher GCSE) pass. So what sort of age employer might assume that a new grade 1 is really good?

This illustrates a key point that is often confused in surveys on the role of media, as seen, for example, in a recent Yougov study among their Internet-based panellists. Discussion of a poll suggested that readers of the Mail and the Sun recognised that their newspapers were not trustworthy on news issues, and so viewed them as merely “entertainment” and gathered information to inform their opinions from other sources that are seen as higher quality, such as television news. While it is clearly true that people recognise that some sources are more trustworthy than others, it is dangerous to assume that this means news coverage in less trusted sources does not influence attitudes. They will form an important background to opinions, they will influence other media and, as analysis here has suggested, for some issues they appear to have an important direct impact. 

9. The quote above refers to the table above that. If you were thinking of using the trust measurement as a probability, what sort of thing would you do (consider doing) with the reasdership of the Mail and Sun, that you might do differently for the Times and Guardian?


Do go visit the link and read the whole paper for yourself. When I wrote this I found no suggestion that MORI were planning to repeat the work. However, there is an annual survey about the trust issue. I wrote something about this in essay 247.

DJS 20180503





1. 35 million / 0.6 =>58 million. One wonders the age at which the authors think we start ‘reading’ newspapers.

2. 35.5 million / 55% => 61 million, 34.5 / 65% => 53 million

3. 650 MPs, so 16%. Actually 16% would be a correct answer for the number of MPs being 612 to 652.

4 sum of % figures is 62% for the public and 329% for MPs. So the public reads half a paper each (telling you that many people don’t read a paper every day) and MPs read probably 3. Clearly the spread of the distribution is not known and it is likely that some read as many papers as they can find, whiel others rely upon the digested resutls from their colleagues.

5 Problem that many students will act as if there are only 650 inside parliament, forgetting the other House and all the supporting staff. Just servicing MPs there is probably one copy delivered to each reading room, plus a large number delivered individually. I googled this (link) and there at least 16 such spaces. In 2012 the HoC spent almost £116,000 on papers, suggesting around 300 papers per day, excluding personally purchased newspapers. There are very many more different papers delivered than you would expect, more than 100.  'A lot’ is quite a good answer.

6 discussion. Mine is already on the page.

7 20% trustworthy rating, so 80% chance in general that you could persuade this adult that 3 or 5 is better than a 4. If a teacher has said it, you have a low chance of fooling them into the wrong understanding, especially since the curren trules for becoming a teacher demand good maths.
However, it also means that if you have a load of grades at 7-9, you need to include in your c.v. that this is a collection of wizard results. 

Give loud appreciative marks/ responses to anyone who sees that the measured % trust might be used as a probability. Better still if they cast doubt upon the wisdom of doing so!  There’s an element of risk in such answers that needs rewarding, since school is a ‘safe’ environment, so taking such a such risk is a good thing, but recognising the risk is even better.

8 Short answer, practically everyone. Someone doing these at 16 would have been born in 1971, so in 2018 would be only 47. People who remember CSE appearing are going to retire soon, having been born in 1959. I doubt that they were aware that CSE was new; it was simply what you had been 'put in for’.

9. Those who read ahead, or who go back and change answers, will see the point about modifying probability. Reward this perception, please. It seems to me that while you would like to use the trust factor as a probability, it would need to be weighted on some scale inverse to the perceived entertainment value, so the so-called broadsheets would have a weighting (relatively trusted) that moves the probability of teh correct message being delivered to something nearer unity, while the lower quality but volume papers woudl have a weighted score radically lower, recognising that there was a truth in there somewhere but not that the reader can identify which bit was accurate.  How one would test that the result was usable is a new task for MORI to investigate.

 However, © David Scoins 2017