Leading up to Thursday June 23rd, 2016, the citizens of the United Kingdom were bombarded with media coverage urging people to vote on the Brexit referendum. On one newsstand, a typical Londoner was presented with around eight different types of publications. The main purpose of the writers and politicians was to try and convince the passing citizen to vote in the Referendum. It was extremely hard for anyone to find a newspaper that did not swing for one side or another, and instead have a neutral opinion.
The arguments that individual publications made greatly impacted the final decisions a citizen made. The areas where people lived tended to promote certain large media conglomerates. The more rural the city or town, the more likely conservative papers will be sold. Consequantially, London would receive more choice in progressive, left-wing publications. The majority of UK citizens were presented with ideas of Brexit instead of the facts. This caused voters to be manipulated to vote a certain way. This stratification of voting can statistically be seen in places like the City of London and in more rural areas like Stoke-on-Trent. The City of London voted 75.3% to remain, while Stoke-on-Trent voted 69.4% in favor of Brexit. What kind of news sources were areas presented, and why did they cause such a difference in results?
First, the question of what “Brexit” is needs to be addressed and defined. Brexit is a referendum that was presented to determine whether or not the UK should stay within the European Union or leave. It was held as a referendum so all the citizens of the UK could freely vote on the decision. The left-leaning parties backed the opposition against Brexit, while some right-wing parties strongly argued for Brexit. At the time, David Cameron was the Prime Minister and actively advocated against Brexit urging the citizens of the UK not to vote in favor of Brexit. Interestingly, Cameron was the main leader of the Conservative party, many people assumed the right-wing party would advocate for Brexit. It was the more extreme right-wing party known as the UK Independence Party, or UKIP. The United Kingdom Independence Party, (UKIP) backed by Nigel Farage, said Brexit would be similar to an “Independence Day” for the UK. On Thursday June 23rd, 2016, Cameron actively stepped down as Prime Minister because the final results of the referendum pointed towards a Brexit. This illuminated how even active government officials voiced their varied opinions to UK citizens, making Brexit even harder for the people to comprehend. This polarizing discussion on how to vote, whether to leave or stay, trickled down into mainstream media and into the commonly bought newspapers.
supported the decision for Brexit. All four of these newspapers
were considered “conservative” and during the time of the Brexit debate never once stopped arguing for the referendum. The Telegraph stated that “we are not harking back to a Britannic golden age lost in the mists of time but looking forward to a new beginning for our country.” The newspaper argued that to be a global power once more that the UK needed to break free and be able to be in charge of their own change. The Daily Mail had their own version of Brexit indicating that the UK had already had a “natural” Brexit around 450,000 years ago. They argued that when the UK broke away from the other states of Europe, naturally, it was hinting that they should be their own entity. Furthermore, it is only natural and appropriate that now they need to reinforce what mother nature has already started. Moreover, The Sun tried to use similar “eye-catching” tactics for the consumers by creating a motto that called citizens to “beLEAVE in Britain” and vote to Brexit. The article then goes onto to discuss how Brussels had formed a dictatorship that is strangling the UK from developing into a global superpower. The Daily Express only added further claims that the European Union caused more harm than foul. The paper exclaimed that in order to get their “democracy back” then they would need their borders back. Furthermore, it states that England was in a “disaster zone” by staying with the European Union. Certain aspects of the European Union, like the eurozone crisis, has put England directly in harms way. These four papers are circulated throughout the UK and are free to be purchased by anyone. Based on the polling statistics presented, it is evident that people in places, like Stoke-on-trent, tend to buy more of these publications because of the majority outcome of their vote.
The other four main newspapers are The Financial Times, The Times, The Guardian, and The Daily Mirror. They all write to favor left-leaning opinions and parties. In London with, 75.3 percent of the population voted to remain, it is indisputable that the majority of the population votes for the Liberal Democrats or Socialist party. The City of London’s demographics show that even though there is a population of 45 percent of White British, there is a high percentage of other races. Alone, Indian or Black African population make-up 7 percent of London’s population. The Financial Times directly argues against the other arguments put forward by the right-wing newspapers. They state that the UK now holds no power and Brussels is now in control of Europe and the fate of England. This is because Brussels is now in charge of the process of England exiting the European Union. This means they have the power to strip England of some very important foreign trade regulations and transactions. Similarly, The Times, The Guardian, and the Daily Mirror argue the same message that now the UK is stuck in limbo as the European Union has complete control. Interestingly, there are less articles that are purposely made to try and grab the attention of the common citizen. The Headlines from the right-leaning, Brexit-opposing newspapers, never restrained themselves, eschewing sensitivity. In the face of all these newspapers, where does the common citizen of UK stand? Is this type of media coverage more beneficial or less?
A 50-year-old interior designer who happened to be my host-mother said, “I feel that we were not given correct information from the other side to make an educated judgement.” Even though both sides presented their case she still feels like part of the story was missing because there was no neutral news source. Another Londoner stated that he seems “to live in a London bubble” because everyone he knows voted against Brexit. As I discussed earlier, this makes sense that he feels that way because more people in London would buy the newspapers advocating against Brexit. Lastly, a young graduate student mentioned that she had noticed the shift of attitudes in London versus in the countryside. She agreed that London had played an influential role on the fact that she voted against Brexit by saying that she was probably influenced by “the fact that I live in London.” Citizens understand that they were directly affected by the media that was presented to them. Interestingly, they allowed themselves to be affected and did not try to look at outside sources. Both the interior designer and graduate student understand they were influenced, but brushed it off because they thought it’s was okay since everyone else was.
After researching the different articles and comparing it to the results of Brexit it is clear that news sources target certain areas and demographics. In London, the newspapers are less aggressive and this seems to cause more left-leaning people to purchase the papers. Outside of London, in the countryside, headlines look like they are used to attract the right-wing workers. Both tactics used by the newspapers seemed worked as there was a clear divide in the votes on the Brexit Referendum. It is clear that something needs to be enforced so this kind of media manipulation cannot be recreated for the next referendum.
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