June 21, 2016 Last Updated 3:25 pm

Columnist blames UK newspapers for Brexit support, The Telegraph supports ‘Leave’

Latest poll shows ‘Remain’ side gaining following the death of Labour MP Jo Cox, but the two sides are so close that the vote to ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’ in the EU is considered a toss-up

If there is one thing that the primary season in the US proved, it is that newspapers have little to no influence on voters today. Of those newspaper that endorsed during the primaries, the vast majority that endorsed on the Republican side encouraged GOP voters to support Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

But do newspapers in the UK still have any influence over voters? Martin Fletcher, a former foreign and associate editor of The Times, seems to think so. Writing today in The New York Times, Fletcher said that the British press has made a continuous effort to paint the European Union in a negative light.


“Articles that did not bash Brussels, that acknowledged the European Union’s achievements, that recognized that Britain had many natural allies in Europe and often won important arguments on, say, the creation of the single market, were almost invariably killed,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher then goes on to repeat some of the headlines common in the UK press, especially the popular tabloids.

Some samples from recent Daily Mail headlines give the flavor: “We’re from Europe: Let Us In!”; “Ten Bombshells the E.U.’s Keeping Secret Until After You’ve Voted”; “Greediest Snouts in the E.U. Trough.” These are from The Sun: “We’ll Get Stuffed by Turkey”; “Checkpoint Charlies: Euro Judges Open Floodgates to Illegals”; “Eur All Invited.”

In the US, the supermarket tabloids are often seen as something other than mainstream newspapers, and so their influence either discounted, or not considered when studies are done on how the media influences the electorate. So, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy report the pre-primary coverage was conducted the study looked at stories on the candidates from CBS, Fox, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. Missing were the two New York tabloids, the Daily News and the Post, and that probably makes sense as their circulation is far smaller than the other papers in the study.

But lists of the top newspapers in the UK show that four out of the top five papers are tabloids: The Sun, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Star.

US supermarket tabloids are, of course, quite a different thing than UK tabloids. They are categorized as magazines, have smaller circulations, and rarely get involved in politics except to claim that the President is part of a Muslim spy conspiracy or Hillary Clinton is a lesbian.

If tabloids really do have the same influence on the voter in the US as some say they have in the UK, it may explain some of the amazing things some Americans believe about their President.

Of the top four newspapers in the UK, only The Daily Telegraph is not a tab. Today, though, it joined many of the tabloids in coming out for the ‘Leave’ side in the Brexit referendum.

“A world of opportunity is waiting for a fully independent Britain,” the Telegraph said in an editorial that appeared in the Tuesday newspaper. “This country is a leading economic power, its language is global, its laws are trusted and its reputation for fair dealing is second to none. To say we cannot thrive free of the EU’s constraints is defeatist and flies in the face of this country’s great mercantile traditions.”

A majority of newspapers in the UK appear to have come out for leaving the European Union. Notable exceptions would be the Guardian and the Financial Times. Rupert Murdoch’s Times has also come in support of the ‘Remain’ side, though its circulation is far lower than The Sun, Murdoch’s much larger tabloid, which supports ‘Leave’.

The Telegraph’s problems with the EU is that it has grown too large, with too many institutions and regulations.

“It now has the trappings of the nation state that we were always assured it would not become: a single currency; a central bank; no frontiers (even if these have been going up again recently in response to the migration crisis); a supreme court; a police force and judicial system (Europol and Eurojust); an embryonic gendarmerie; its own foreign policy; and, if some in the Commission get their way, it will have a European army.”

The Telegraph is considered a mainstream conservative newspaper, one that supported the ‘No’ side in the Scottish independence referendum. Ironically, a vote to leave the EU would most certainly mean that Scotland would want another chance to vote on leaving the UK – and this time most think the ‘Yes’ side would win.

The Telegraph’s influence is somewhat offset by that of the Guardian, though the Telegraph’s circulation is roughly three times that of its more liberal rival. The Guardian has come out in favor of the ‘Remain’ side, though like the Labour Party it usually supports, it has been far from enthusiastic in that support. One reason may simply be that the ‘Remain’ side is led by the Prime Minister David Cameron. A vote to leave the EU may result in the Conservatives throwing Cameron out, or at the very least, calls for a snap election, one that might favor Labour (the polls are close).

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