The press coverage of the EU referendum has been biased in favour of Brexit, says study


The majority of the UK press coverage of the EU referendum has been "heavily skewed in favour of Brexit", a new study has suggested.

The Vote Leave campaign bus is parked (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Press coverage has been heavily skewed in favour of Brexit, according to a study group at the University of Oxford (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

The research, by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, looked at articles in nine national newspapers on two sample days each week for the first two months of the referendum campaign.

It found that of the 928 EU-focused articles, 45% were in favour of leaving while only 27% were in favour of staying.

Other articles were categorised as mixed or undecided (19%) or adopting no position at all (9%).

david cameron and george osborne (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)
The Conservatives were the most likely to be quoted in EU articles (Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA)

The findings also showed that newspapers have been much more likely to quote the Conservatives - of the total number of quoted UK politicians, 69% were Tories compared with just 14% Labour and 7% Ukip.

The newspaper to include the most pro-Leave articles was found to be the Daily Mail, followed by the Daily Express, the Daily Star and the Daily Telegraph.

The newspapers with the most pro-Remain articles were, in order, the Daily Mirror, the Guardian and the Financial Times. The Times was found to be "relatively evenly balanced between the two positions" with a slight lean towards more pro-Leave pieces.

passengers going through UK Border at Terminal 2 (Steve Parsons/PA)
Some newspapers focused on the issue of migration in their pro-leave articles (Steve Parsons/PA)

The research also looked at what arguments were used by the different publications. It found that the Sun and the Mirror "relied heavily" on arguments around sovereignty while the broadsheets - the Financial Times, the Guardian, the Telegraph and The Times - focused more on economy.

The Express, the Star and the Mail all focused on the issue of migration.

The report's preliminary analysis looked at coverage from February 20 to April 26 2016. The full report for the entire referendum campaign period, from February 20 to June 21, will be published in September.