Press coverage during the first two months of the EU referendum heavily favoured the pro-Brexit side of the debate, according to a new academic study.
The research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University studied two sample days of coverage per week for the two months from 20 February when Prime Minister David Cameron revealed the date of the vote and signalled the start of the EU referendum campaign.
Researchers looked at 928 national newspaper articles focused on the referendum published by nine national daily newspapers and took a view on whether each piece favoured the leave or remain side of the argument.
They found found 45 per cent of articles were in favour of leaving the EU, 27 per cent backed staying, 19 per cent were “mixed or undecided” and 9 per cent adopted no position.
The study also found that 69 per cent of politicians quoted in the articles were Conservatives versus 14 per cent Labour and 7 per cent UKIP.
The Daily Mail carried the most pro-leave articles followed by the Daily Express, Daily Star, The Sun and Daily Telegraph – the study found.
Newspapers with the most pro-remain articles were: the Daily Miirror, The Guardian and the Financial Times.
The Times was found by the study to be “relatively evenly balanced”.
The study was undertaken with PRIME research. Interim findings were released this morning with the full report due in September.
Britons go to the polls on 23 June to vote on whether to leave the European Union.
While national newspaper coverage appears to strongly favour the leave case, the latest polls show remain slightly ahead. According to the FT’s “poll of polls” from 19 May, stay is on 47 per cent versus leave on 40 per cent with 13 per cent undecided.