Britain’s Got Bias?

How British newspaper bias might have influenced the

2016 Brexit referendum.

British newspapers are said to have formed positions against the EU over the years, which

might have ultimately shaped the outcome of the Brexit Referendum, leading to the first case

of ‘divorce’ between the EU and one of its member states ever since its foundation in 1993.

In a recent article the New York Times (NYT) discusses who to blame for the outcome of the

‘Brexit situation’ – Their answer: British newspaper bias. Amongst other influences Britain’s

anti-Europeanism appears to arise from British media coverage heavily featuring downsides

rather than advantages related to the UK’s membership with the European Union. A broad

review of the largest british daily newspapers underlines the accusation made by the NYT.

Study concerning british press coverage during the time leading up to the EU


The Reuters Institute conducted a comprehensive study concerning british press coverage

during the time leading up to the EU Referendum. The study explored nine british

newspapers over the timespan of four months prior to the voting day. 3,403 articles focused

on the EU Referendum were analysed.

The results of the study showed, that 48% of all articles were positioned Pro Leave, while

only 22% expressed in favor of Pro Remain. According to the study 6 out of 9 newspapers

had a dominance of Pro Leave articles. The three newspapers with the highest ranks in Pro

Leave content were the Daily Express, the Daily Mail and the Sun. In contrast, the Daily

Mirror was found to be the only newspaper with a high amount of articles supporting

Remain. Regardless of the many efforts in those newspapers to pull voters to one of the two

sides, there were also articles published with a contrary opinion, whereas the Daily Express

showed the smallest amount of heterogeneity.




What the front page of the British media said before the Brexit


Daily Mail The Sun

The Daily Telegraph The Daily Express





The Times Daily Mirror The guardian

One view is that Britain’s liberal elites and the EU are out of touch with popular life and

therefore Pro-EU. This view is for example shared by Nigel Farage, leader of the British

Independence Party. If you go to social media, there are too many people who choose to


There is a evidence that a string of biased media coverage has misled voters. In 2013, a

study conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission found that many voters merely

had a superficial understanding and knowledge of the European Union – some having no

concept of what the EU stands for and does at all, as well as of the UK’s status as a

European Union member. Although there are many reasons for Britain’s separation from the

Union, media bias is an unavoidable factor.