What do British newspaper readers think about Brexit?
Plenty of research has gone into how Brexit has been playing havoc with the British party system, both in terms of party unity and discipline and public attachments to parties and voting intentions. Less attention has been paid to another set of quasi-institutional actors who are also in the business of shaping and representing public opinion – the British press. Notoriously partisan but intermittently quite capable of shifting allegiance and persuading their readers to come along, how have British newspapers been affected by the emergence of this all-engulfing new issue, which is cutting across traditional partisan divides?
It will take a much larger project to look at the supply side – to study directly and in detail how the papers have responded, reported and taken sides on the issue. However, data from the British Election Study Internet Panel (BESIP) enables us to investigate the demand side – how readers of major papers divide on the Leave/Remain issue and its more recent permutations (no-deal, the Withdrawal Agreement, Remain), and also how defections from and to papers relate to the Brexit issue and reshape the preference distributions among readerships.