It is widely accepted by
many scholars that the media is an extremely powerful vehicle in shaping public
perception on certain issues (Lawlor, 2015; O’Nions, 2010; Gunnee, 2016). The
public relies heavily on the media as a source of information upon which
opinions are formed and decisions are made. The media has the power to shape
public opinion through the way in which issues are framed and language is used.
Framing theory has been extensively used by scholars throughout the years; and
is the focus of this thesis. Framing refers to the way in which certain issues
are presented and narrated to the public by the media.
has had a rocky relationship with the EU since joining the European Communities
in 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 control
over social issues such as immigration. The UK is the only EU Member State
which has previously held a referendum on whether to retain EU membership. Held
in 1975, the British electorate voted to remain a Member State by 67.23% to
32.77%. In recent years, as feelings of disillusionment and Euroscepticism
grew, the EU has been increasingly discussed in terms of social and political
issues such as immigration (Mudde, 2010; Balch & Balabanova, 2017).
Increasing levels of immigration from both the EU and beyond to the UK has led
to an increase in media discourse and political discussions regarding
immigrants, asylum seekers, and migration more generally (Verkuyten, 2005).
2016, the UK held a second referendum regarding its membership, and the
electorate voted to leave by a 51.9% margin, making the UK the first Member
State to leave the EU. Goodwin & Heath (2016, p. 325) note the 2016
referendum revealed a society divided by ‘social class, generation, and
geography’. Goodwin & Heath (2016, p. 325) also determine the Leave
Campaign won the majority of its support in specific areas; ‘communities that
tend to be more economically disadvantaged… where average education levels are
low and the local population is heavily white’. Vlandas (2016, p. 4) suggested
there is ‘a strong anti-immigrant preference among a significant part of the
UK’s population’, stemming from associations between social issues and
migration (such as crime, a lack of jobs, and inadequate access to public
services). Immigration levels have been steadily rising in the UK, arguably
heightened by the free movement of persons between EU countries. A series of
both newspaper articles and academic articles have insinuated that migration
has been a source of concern and fear for many UK citizens (Tilford, 2015), and
some authors have even suggested immigration may have played a role in
encouraging how some people voted in the Brexit Referendum (Vlandas, 2016;
Wadsworth et al. 2016).