In a ‘post-factual'(or ‘alternative’ factual?) era, it’s hardly surprising that the Supreme Court’s ruling that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without the authorisation of Parliament has been met with scathing reviews from the UK’s top newspapers. The question of whether newspapers influence their readers’ opinions or vice versa is a moot point, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to believe that anyone enjoys eating vitriol for breakfast, and that given the facts they wouldn’t rather have something nicer. My question is, has the press coverage influenced how people view Brexit and how likely are they to continue in the current vein despite their alarming indifference to the actual facts?
Before we go any further, if you are interested in the finer points of the legal argument, the Secret Barrister has done a series of cards on Twitter to assist you.
Newsbrands reach 47 million adults in the UK. In comparison, Google.co.uk has a monthly reach of 41,064,000 across all platforms – Newsworks, a company that uses research to provide insights into the relationship between newspapers (including dmg, News UK, Guardian News & Media, Telegraph Media, and others) and their consumers. MailOnline has nearly 14 million daily average unique browsers. The closest to that is Mirror Group Nationals with 4,959,702 – (source)
In a paper analysing newspapers’ editorial content during the EU referendum campaign, Dr Julie Firmstone, (Associate Professor in Media and Communication at University of Leeds) found that newspapers backing Leave (Daily Mail, Sun, Daily Express, Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times) published and gave prominence to far more editorial content than Remain supporters (Mirror, Guardian, Independent, FT). What’s more, Leave papers tended to capitalise on nationalist fears for sovereignty by using militaristic language. If you need examples of this, revisit any of the front pages in 2016. This is not an unprecedented event.
Researchers from Oxford University found evidence that The Sun‘s switch of endorsement from the Labour party (1997) and subsequent u-turn to the Conservative party in 2010 was associated 550,000 extra votes for Conservatives; a move that may have affected the 2010 election. However, despite the change in party affiliation, there was no effect on underlying political beliefs.
It will be interesting to see whether voters will continue to turn to their preferred papers in forming their opinions, and how impactful the papers will be on future governmental decisions.