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News Media Journalism & Democracy

How Brexit Referendum Voters Use News

More than three years after the United Kingdom narrowly voted to leave the European Union, journalists, academics and politicians still debate the role the news media played during the referendum campaign. People wonder whether new forms of online communication swung the result, whether people’s understanding of the EU has been shaped by decades of partisan coverage, and whether parts of the news media are structurally biased towards a particular worldview. In this factsheet we have compared the current media habits of those who voted to remain with those who voted to leave.

Our findings challenge some widely-held assumptions. Both leave and remain voters mainly access news offline via print, television and radio. Remainers are more likely to use the Guardian, the Times, the Mirror and HuffPost for news. Leavers are more likely to access news from the Sun, the Daily Mail, Sky and ITV. However, the most popular outlet with both groups by far is BBC News. And if we focus on newspapers with a clear position on Brexit, only a tiny proportion of leavers (3%) and remainers (1%) get all of their news from either a pro-leave or pro-remain outlet. Finally, there is little difference in social media news use between leavers and remainers, with the exception that those who voted remain are more likely to use Twitter. These insights come from the 2019 Reuters Institute Digital News Report (Newman et al. 2019). The report is based on an online survey of news users carried out by YouGov in 38 markets, including the UK, in February 2019.