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The Role of British and International Mass Media on the Outcomes of the Referendum of UK’s Membership in the EU

Student: Valentina Ferlenghi

Supervisor: Maxim Bratersky

Faculty: Faculty of World Economy and International Affairs

Educational Programme: Double degree programme in International Relations of the NRU HSE and the University of London (Bachelor)

Final Grade: 8

Year of Graduation: 2021

The modern reality, where international relations are highly defined by the mass distribution of information, the vital role of mass media is undeniable. It is well-established that media is considered to be a powerful tool through which citizens can be informed, but at the same time manipulated on issues that are considered to be influential on different levels of society. This study aims to determine how different media sources, specifically, newspapers, which for centuries occupied a central position in the distribution of information, shaped the Brexit referendum that occurred on the 23rd of June 2016, where British people were asked whether they want the United Kingdom to remain a member of the European Union or whether they want it to leave. Specifically, it investigates how British and international newspaper articles covered the referendum during the official campaign dates, from the 15th of April to the 23rd of June 2016, based mainly on quantitative and qualitative research. To test the hypothesis that mass media possess immense power in shaping political events around the world, an online Factiva database was used for the purpose of searching the articles most relevant to the posed criteria of the research. The collected data was analyzed using a three-step analysis: article, message, and headline-level analyses. The results showed a remarkable difference in how newspapers for “Leave” and for “Remain” tended to cover the topic of Brexit, where the conservative ones maintained a more persuasive stance in their communication with the audience. These results suggest that the world is observing a transformation over the critical channels through which political events tend to be seen, where the digital environment is increasing its potential moving politics into a fully online environment, where voters are under the constant influence of the mass media channels.

Full text (added May 10, 2021)

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