Newspapers give thumbs down to Government claims on ID cards

23 Apr 2009

National newspapers have portrayed Government policy on ID cards as illiberal, unsafe and being introduced by stealth according to a study published today.

The four-month snapshot of 280 newspaper articles and letters was carried out by Elisa Pieri, a researcher at The University of Manchester.

The study examined the coverage in four broadsheets and three tabloids, and all their Sunday editions.

It found that newspapers used a range of arguments to condemn the policy on ID cards. Humour and sarcasm were among the strategies used to undermine the arguments made by the Government.

Some of the arguments promoted by the newspapers were:

  • Scheme is unsafe.
  • Scheme lacks accountability.
  • It is compulsory rather than based on choice.
  • Scheme creates an imbalance between security and liberty.
  • Scheme is another failed IT project.

The period studied by Ms Pieri coincided with the launch of a new strategy for implementation of the ID Scheme and Register in March 2008 by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

The so called "Delivery Plan 2008" introduced a timetable for the scheme to be rolled out across the UK. The scheme will create a large database of citizens aged 16 and over, and collect biometric and biographical information on them.

Ms Pieri, who is based at the University's ESRC National Centre for E Social Science, said: "The aim of the study was to see which arguments were used in the media coverage of the ID debate, and the extent to which Government arguments used in rolling out policy might feature in the printed media over that same period.

"The report offers a snapshot of general trends, rather than contrast the coverage of individual newspapers.

"My conclusion is that in the media coverage analysed the newspapers promote and support alternative arguments to those offered in the ID policy discourse”.

Notes for editors

Elisa Pieri is Research Associate at the ESRC National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS), The University of Manchester.

The report ID cards: A snapshot of the debate in the UK press is available from

Further information on the ID study on

This study was conducted as part of larger project, funded by JISC, which looked at frame analysis - the methodology used to recover and study the arguments mobilised in the media coverage - and looked at whether it can be assisted through text mining techniques. Further information on the larger project on

For media enquiries contact:

Elisa Pieri -


Mike Addelman
Media Relations Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881 567