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Devolution implications were ignored in pre-EU Referendum media coverage

The devolution implications of leaving the EU barely registered in national press and TV coverage in the run-up to Thursday’s vote according to the latest EU Referendum media analysis report from Loughborough University.

Consideration of the implications of devolution accounted for just 0.8% of media coverage from 6 May to 22 June 2016, and taxation issues were covered even less – accounting for 0.6%.

In the four days since the vote (Friday 24 to Monday 27 June), the national press published 198 items mentioning Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, representing a daily average of 49.5 items; in the six weeks prior, Article 50 was mentioned just 88 times, achieving an average of 1.8 items per day.

In depth analysis reveals media coverage principally focussed on the drama and dynamics of the campaign, the economic implications of leaving the EU, and immigration and border controls. Collectively, these three topics accounted for 63% of all coverage.

Table 1.1: Most prominent issues by all media and media sector (6 May – 22 June) 

 

All Media

IN papers

OUT papers

TV

News

 

%

%

%

%


Referendum conduct

30.9


33.5


29.6


28.9

Economy/ Business

18.9

18.9

18.9

18.8

Immigration

13.2

9.9

14.8

15.6

Public opinion and citizens

8.0

8.8

5.0

11.3

Constitutional/ legal

6.1

5.8

6.7

5.5

Employment

3.6

3.9

3.4

3.4

Defence/ military/ security

3.4

2.9

4.4

2.7

Standards/ corruption

2.4

2.1

4.2

.3

Health & health services

2.3

2.7

2.2

1.7

EU operations and activities

1.7

1.4

1.6

2.4

Housing

0.9

.7

1.1

.8

Crime/ law and order

0.9

1.1

1.2

0.0

Social security

0.8

.6

1.2

.7

Devolution in UK

0.8

.8

.3

1.5

Other foreign policy

0.7

.8

.7

.5

Taxation

0.6

.6

.7

.5

Public services

0.6

.1

1.0

.6

Agriculture

0.6

.6

.3

.9

Environment

0.5

.7

.6

0.0

Education

0.5

.4

.7

.2

All other issues

2.7

3.5

1.5

3.4

Economic news exceeded coverage of immigration for all but one sample week. However, in the last days of campaigning, the gap between them narrowed.

 
The dominance of Conservative party representatives was sustained throughout. Seven of the top 10 and half of all in the top 30 media appearances list are Conservatives, accounting for 73% of the total number of appearances in the list.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was 7th in the appearances list. 10 of his party made the top 30 and together they accounted for 15% of appearances.

The only two representatives from other UK political parties to make the list were Nigel Farage (4th) and Nicola Sturgeon (16th).

Table 2.1: Top thirty media appearances (6 May – 22 June)

Position

Name

Number of appearances

 

 

Percentage of items in which they appeared

1

David Cameron (Conservative IN)

499

24.9%

2

Boris Johnson (Conservative OUT)

379

18.9%

3

George Osborne (Conservative IN)

230

11.5%

4

Nigel Farage (UKIP OUT)

182

9.1%

5

Michael Gove (Conservative OUT)

161

8.0%

6

Ian Duncan Smith (Conservative OUT)

124

6.2%

7

Jeremy Corbyn (Labour IN)

123

6.1%

8

Priti Patel (Conservative OUT)

65

3.2%

9

Gordon Brown (Labour IN)

52

2.6%

10

John Major (Conservative IN)

47

2.3%

11

Jacob Rees-Mogg (Conservative OUT)

35

1.7%

12=

Chris Grayling (Conservative OUT)

33

1.6%

12=

Gisela Stuart (Labour OUT)

33

1.6%

14=

Theresa May (Conservative IN)

29

1.4%

14=

Donald Tusk (President European Council IN)

29

1.4%

16

Nicola Sturgeon (SNP IN)

28

1.4%

17=

Bernard Jenkin (Conservative OUT)

24

1.2%

17=

Sadiq Khan (Labour IN)

24

1.2%

19

Liam Fox (Conservative OUT)

23

1.1%

20

Jean-Claude Juncker (President of the EC IN)

21

1.0%

21

Alistair Darling (Labour IN)

20

1.0%

22

Alan Johnson (Labour IN)

19

.9%

23=

Amber Rudd (Conservative IN)

18

.9%

23=

Ed Balls (Labour IN)

18

.9%

25=

Norman Lamont (Conservative OUT)

17

.8%

25=

Harriet Harman (Labour IN)

17

.8%

26=

Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany IN)

16

.8%

26=

Sarah Wollaston (Conservative OUT then IN)

16

.8%

26=

John McDonnell (Labour IN)

16

.8%

30

Angela Eagle (Labour IN)

15

.7%

The OUT to IN coverage gap continued into the final days of campaigning, with volume of Leave achieving a 80% to 20% advantage over Remain in the national press when weighted by circulation.

Report co-author Professor David Deacon said:

“Given the wider readership of the pro-Leave papers Thursday’s result is perhaps not so surprising.

“However, the seismic shift in reporting of Article 50 is staggering, increasing from an average 1.8 mentions per day pre-vote to 49.5 items post vote, and reflects the narrow issue agenda of both campaigns.”

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 16/94

About the Report
The following news outlets (weekdays only) were analysed for the report:

Television: Channel 4 News (7pm), Channel 5 News Tonight (6.30pm), BBC1 News at 10, ITV1 News at 10, Sky News 8-8.30pm.

Press: The Guardian, Times, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Mirror, Sun, Star and the I.

Visit the CRCC website for more information.

Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com

About Loughborough University 
Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, putting it among the best universities in the world, and was named the best in the country for its student experience in the 2016 THE Student Experience Survey. Loughborough was ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2017 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2017 and was also named University of the Year in the In the What Uni Student Choice Awards 2015.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

In September 2015 the University opened an additional academic campus in London’s new innovation quarter. Loughborough University London, based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.

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