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Brexit: Where do the papers stand?

By Craig Melson, Consultant, London

There is less than one month to go until the EU Referendum, and the polls currently show a narrow (yet assailable) lead for remain with Oddschecker making them the clear odds on favourite.

But what impact will the newspapers have? Millions of words have been written on the decline of print, and whether it is the paper or readers that lead opinion, but they still sell millions a day (not to mention online broswers), so it is fair to say they probably have some influence, especially in selected demographics that could determine the overall result.

Therefore, with the help of our friends at Hotwire PR, we have done a stock take of the major papers (sorted by print readership) to try and determine which side they’ll back in the referendum. Some newspapers have already declared their positions and others are genuinely hard to figure out, but we took our best shot at it.

The Sun – Leave

  • Daily print: 1,716,361
  • Monthly browsers: 37,130,911

The current bun is the hardest to call, with both campaigns desperate to have the UK’s best selling newspaper onside. From their commentary, supporting out will be more likely and Murdoch himself will be the one to decide the Sun’s position, a decision that will be eagerly anticipated by both camps.

Daily Mail – Leave

  • Daily: 1,545,573
  • Monthly browsers: 220,014,517

The Daily Mail has said Brexit wouldn’t damage the UK and as the voice of ‘small c’ conservative Britain, will follow their instincts and call for out, citing ‘EU diktats’ and immigration. The Mail on Sunday declared for remain this week, but this probably has more to do with the Paul Dacre/Geordie Grieg power struggle than politics.

Metro – Unclear

  • Daily: 1,347,594 (free)
  • Monthly browsers: 25,391,618

The Metro shies away from opinions, so it is hard to call. However, expect readable stories featuring Twitter screenshots and amusing YouTube stories to fill the void.

Evening Standard – Remain

  • Daily: 900,175 (free)
  • Monthly browsers: 10,571,866

The Evening Standard is close to the Conservative leadership and with London benefiting hugely from access to European markets, plus a mobile (and largely immigrant) population, they will strongly back remain.

Daily Mirror – Remain

  • Daily: 809,147
  • Monthly browsers: 76,324,023

The Daily Mirror has all but declared themselves as remainers, and with working class Labour voters a key demographic in the election, they have a tricky hand to play. A big percentage of Mirror readers will be Eurosceptics so they will need to qualify support for ‘Bremain’ with calls for controls on immigration.

Daily Star – Leave

  • Daily: 513,233
  • Monthly browsers: 13,758,708

The tabloid wing of the Richard Desmond empire, you can expect the UK’s fourth most popular national newspaper to match the Express position here and come out for Brexit.

Daily Telegraph – Leave

  • Daily: 481,525
  • Monthly browsers: 88,209,164

The Daily Telegraph has some of the most Brexit supporting readers (according to a YouGov survey) and Reuters claims it has published the highest percentage of Eurosceptic stories in the quality papers.

Times – Remain

  • Daily: 436,692
  • Monthly browsers: not disclosed (uses paywall)

The Times is the paper of the establishment, and is naturally very cautious.  Recent pieces have chastised the leave campaign for failing to give a convincing idea of what a post EU Britain would look like.

Daily Express – Leave

  • Daily: 419,328
  • Monthly browsers: 29,150,245

The Daily Express has been calling for Brexit for months and expect many more opinion pieces from Nigel Farage and co in the coming weeks on why Britain should go.

Financial Times – Remain

  • Daily: 195,913
  • Monthly browsers: 670,531 (uses paywall)

The FT is a friend of big business and hates economic uncertainty, so expect it to unequivocally support remain.

The Guardian – Remain

  • Daily: 169,424
  • Monthly browsers: 155,057,531

The Guardian surprised no-one when it declared itself as ‘in’ a few weeks back, however it is probably up there with the Express in the ‘preaching to the converted’ stakes.

City AM – Remain

  • Daily: 96,489 (free)
  • Monthly browsers: 1,200,000 (exact figure not provided)

This was another difficult one to call, due to the presence and frequency of opinion pieces calling for Brexit. However, as it serves a specific demographic (financial services workers in the City of London, who like the EU), we expect it to back remain.

Overall, Brexit supporting papers sell two million more copies (see below). Caution is needed though when trying to use this to judge the outcome, as it this makes no attempt to determine factors such as pre-existing views, likelihood to vote or the susceptibility of readers to be influenced by what they read.

  • Total readership of remain: 2,438,416
  • Total readership of leave: 4,676,020


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