A new study from the Centre for the Study of Media, Communication and Power, based at the Policy Institute at King’s College London, analyses UK media coverage of last year’s Brexit campaign.
Among the report’s findings are the following:
- The economic consequences of Brexit were the most covered issue (7,028 articles vs 4,383 on immigration and 1,638 on health)
- Immigration was the most prominent campaign issue (99 front pages vs 82 for economy; and immigration coverage more than tripled during the campaign)
- Migrant blaming was rife (migrants blamed for everything from taking houses to smuggling weapons)
- Specific nationalities were singled out for particularly negative coverage by certain news outlets – especially Turks and Albanians, but also Romanians and Poles
- Sovereignty closely associated with ‘taking back control’ (46% of sovereignty articles), and rarely associated with making our own laws (6% of sovereignty articles)
- Mutual accusations of lying (552 articles overall), of misleading (464 articles) and of dishonesty (234 articles) were made by each side every week of the campaign
- The politics of fear pervaded the campaign – the phrase ‘Project Fear’ was referenced 739 times, ‘scaremongering’ 737 times
- Remain became characterisd as the ‘Establishment’ populated by an ‘elite’ (547 articles mentioned the ‘Establishment’ – variously defined – while 636 mentioned ‘elites’)
The study was researched and written by Martin Moore and Gordon Ramsay and is based on analysis of all 14,779 articles published online about the EU Referendum across 20 national news outlets over the 10 weeks prior to polling day. The research was conducted using bespoke software to gather all 350,000 URLs published on all the sampled news websites and applied automated tagging to identify referendum articles and facilitate content analysis.