It is widely accepted bymany scholars that the media is an extremely powerful vehicle in shaping publicperception on certain issues (Lawlor, 2015; O’Nions, 2010; Gunnee, 2016). Thepublic relies heavily on the media as a source of information upon whichopinions are formed and decisions are made. The media has the power to shapepublic opinion through the way in which issues are framed and language is used.Framing theory has been extensively used by scholars throughout the years; andis the focus of this thesis. Framing refers to the way in which certain issuesare presented and narrated to the public by the media. The UKhas had a rocky relationship with the EU since joining the European Communitiesin 1973.
For some, the EU has become a representation of a lack of nationalism,supremacy over the UK parliament and courts, corruption, and a lack of controlover social issues such as immigration. The UK is the only EU Member Statewhich has previously held a referendum on whether to retain EU membership. Heldin 1975, the British electorate voted to remain a Member State by 67.23% to32.
77%. In recent years, as feelings of disillusionment and Euroscepticismgrew, the EU has been increasingly discussed in terms of social and politicalissues such as immigration (Mudde, 2010; Balch & Balabanova, 2017).Increasing levels of immigration from both the EU and beyond to the UK has ledto an increase in media discourse and political discussions regardingimmigrants, asylum seekers, and migration more generally (Verkuyten, 2005). In2016, the UK held a second referendum regarding its membership, and theelectorate voted to leave by a 51.
9% margin, making the UK the first MemberState to leave the EU. Goodwin & Heath (2016, p. 325) note the 2016referendum revealed a society divided by ‘social class, generation, andgeography’. Goodwin & Heath (2016, p. 325) also determine the LeaveCampaign won the majority of its support in specific areas; ‘communities thattend to be more economically disadvantaged… where average education levels arelow and the local population is heavily white’.
Vlandas (2016, p. 4) suggestedthere is ‘a strong anti-immigrant preference among a significant part of theUK’s population’, stemming from associations between social issues andmigration (such as crime, a lack of jobs, and inadequate access to publicservices). Immigration levels have been steadily rising in the UK, arguablyheightened by the free movement of persons between EU countries. A series ofboth newspaper articles and academic articles have insinuated that migrationhas been a source of concern and fear for many UK citizens (Tilford, 2015), andsome authors have even suggested immigration may have played a role inencouraging how some people voted in the Brexit Referendum (Vlandas, 2016;Wadsworth et al. 2016).