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People who view television on a laptop, tablet or mobile phone are more likely to be politically and ethically swayed by what they view than any other group.According to a study by segmentation specialist Clusters, which conducts research into the attitudes and behaviours of television viewers, almost a third (31 per cent) of those who watch programmes in this way say that the content has an impact on their political beliefs.

Known as ‘device hoppers’, this group is predominantly made up of people under the age of 44 who live in large cities like London. With many co-habiting, or living in a flat, they tend to watch television in their bedroom or at work, opting for the convenience of catch-up or streaming services.

In contrast, among those who prefer a television set, the number of people who believe their TV viewing affects their politics is less than 20 per cent, while a further 11 per cent said they ‘couldn’t say’ what influence it had. According to Clusters’ study, viewers in this segment watch television as a form of escapism and don’t engage in any other activities, or use any other devices, while watching TV.

“People’s perceptions of media influence have always been related to some extent with the means through which media content is encountered,” explained Dr Vincent Campbell, Associate Professor in the School of Media, Communication & Sociology at the University of Leicester.

“Television news was initially seen in the 1950s as potentially more influential because it was being broadcast into the home rather than in public spaces like cinemas, where film newsreels were seen.

“This research suggests that some people today may perceive the things they actively seek out to watch, read and listen to on their devices as more influential when compared to the more passive flow of conventional television schedules precisely because they’re making very conscious choices to engage with material.

“When it comes to political material particularly there are the problems of ‘echo chambers’ and ‘filter bubbles’, where people tend to select material more in agreement within their pre-existing views, so what they perceive as greater influence may actually be more a case of reinforcement of existing views rather than changes in views.”

At the end of last year, Clusters discovered that in the UK almost half of people (48 per cent) chose to watch their favourite television shows alone rather than with friends and family. One of the main drivers for this is the number of devices now present in many households.

Managing director of Clusters Chris Cowan, who led the research, said:

TV and media businesses need to take notice of - and understand - their audience segments if they’re going to effectively reach out to the right people. For example, if a company is looking to convince people on ethical or political grounds, we know they have the best chance of success by targeting those watching on devices as opposed to a TV set.

“When researched thoroughly, a segmentation pulls apart audiences and reveals the varied behaviours, preferences and attitudes they each have. The most important aspect of this for media businesses to recognise is that these groups need to be programmed for, and marketed to, very differently”.

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