Unsustainable and Uncontrolled: Framing Immigration During the Brexit Campaign
Van Horne, Jessica Marie
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The British vote to leave the European Union in 2016 came as a major surprise to politicians and scholars. Pre-referendum scholarship indicated that while British voters had concerns about cultural issues, such as identity and immigration, they would ultimately decide based on economic considerations. However, post-referendum voter surveys and scholarship showed that immigration was a key issue for many Leave and Undecided voters. This paper addresses why immigration was such a significant issue, and why it was so closely tied to leaving the EU, by discussing how the official campaigns and print media sources prioritized and characterized the issue. I argue that the relative prominence of immigration in media coverage, and the increased likelihood that newspapers would use Leave-associated frames, which also corresponded with pre-existing negative attitudes towards immigrants, contributed to immigration’s overall salience and strong ties to Leave.