Brexit: Sun boycott helped to cut Euroscepticism in Merseyside, study suggests

Brexit: Sun boycott helped to cut Euroscepticism in Merseyside, study suggests


A boycott of The Sun newspaper by the people of Liverpool after the Hillsborough disaster helped to cut Euroscepticism in Merseyside, according to a new study. 

Researchers at the London School of Economics and University of Zurich found Merseyside was around 10 per cent less Eurosceptic than the rest of the UK as a result of the boycott.

The Sun‘s daily circulation in Liverpool fell drastically after it printed a front-page story incorrectly blaming the Hillsborough disaster, which claimed 96 lives, on the behaviour of the fans.

The study found most readers switched allegiance from The Sun to The Mirror.

“We show that attitudes towards the European Union got significantly more positive in Merseyside during the boycott,” they wrote.

The study, which analysed data from the British Social Attitudes survey, found Merseyside was around 10 per cent less Eurosceptic in the 2016 EU referendum than the rest of the UK compared to the 1975 membership referendum.

In 2016, Merseyside voted for Remain by 51 to 49 per cent – with 58 per cent of Liverpudlians voting to stay a member of the 28 nation bloc.

The researchers wrote that “the boycott of the most important Eurosceptic newspaper – The Sun in Merseyside as a consequence of The Sun’s reporting on the​ Hillsborough sporting disaster – led to a decrease of Euroscepticism in Merseyside, which we estimate to amount to around 11 percentage-points.

“Moreover, our results suggest that The Sun boycott in Merseyside might have decreased the leave vote share in Merseyside in the 2016 EU referendum.”

They added: “This study therefore shows that sustained media campaigns on emerging issues can have large, lasting, and ultimately, consequential effects on public opinion, and public policy.”

The study, which has yet to be peer reviewed, will be published at the American Political Science Association’s annual meeting in Washington on 30 August.



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