UK newspapers had a “dominant pro-Leave bias” during the EU referendum campaign — with The Daily Express carrying the most partisan Brexit coverage — according to a study from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ).
The study analysed 3,403 articles from nine national newspapers over a four-month period until the June 23 European vote.
RISJ found that 41% of the articles analysed were pro-Brexit, while only 27% were in favour of remaining in the European Union.
The study also provided a breakdown of how each individual newspaper performed during the EU referendum campaign. Unsurprisingly, UKIP-supporting newspaper The Daily Express was most heavily in favour of Brexit, with 76% of its articles championing this cause.
The Daily Mail, The Sun, and The Daily Telegraph all came out in favour of Britain leaving the EU, so again, it was no surprise to see their output dominated by pro-Brexit articles. The Daily Mirror, The Guardian, and The Financial Times were all on the opposite side of the debate.
The Times came out in support of Remain, but RISJ found that it had a “slight preponderance” to pro-Leave articles. These made up 36% of its coverage, compared to 22% in favour of Remain.
RISJ, which conducted its study in association with PRIME Research, also uncovered evidence that will play into theories that the Remain camp deployed “Project Fear” during the referendum campaign.
It concluded that pro-Remain articles “adopted a generally very negative tone” and provided “pessimistic forecasts of a pro-Brexit future.”
By contrast, “pro-Leave articles adopted a more positive tone, balancing criticism of the status quo with hopeful messages for a pro-Brexit future.”