Except for a recent Rutgers University study* finding most British newspapers tended to advocate the United Kingdom exit the European Union, Gateway Journalism Review has found little if any research indicating how the media played the Brexit story.
While no social science data were apparently collected on the American media’s coverage of this issue, anecdotal evidence points to a reverse trend in the U.S., where the media seemed to lean toward coverage encouraging Britain to remain in the UK. And the American media have not been shy about examining their own coverage.
But regardless of media coverage, most political scientists in Britain, while expecting the final ballot to be close, were surprised the “Leavers” outpolled the “Remainers,” and that they did so by nearly four percentage points – 51.9 to 48.1 percent. Since then, much Monday-night quarterbacking and speculation have occurred, laying blaming “Leave” voting on everything from EU emigration policies to a rural-urban divide to voters’ age to weather in London on voting day to a growing nationalist tendency of the British population, especially the English.
And “Leavers” have been likened to Donald Trump supporters on the other side of The Pond. Much Trump coverage in recent days has centered on the candidate’s money problems, with Hillary Clinton now raising many times more cash than the New York billionaire. Trump currently is being portrayed as not only out of touch with voters, but also nearly out of cash and increasingly, it seems, being seen as an increasing long-shot, or at the very least being a candidate hard-pressed to beat Clinton come November.
But might there be a Brexit/Trump similarity the U.S. media are not yet seeing? An unprecedented number of British voters turned out to cast pro-Brexit votes. Many of these voters were older, whiter, less educated and feeling marginalized in the modern world and longing for the good old days when the Union Jack flew proudly around the world and the sun never set on the British empire.
Might there be a similar strain of U.S. voters waiting to vote in November? Might the U.S. media be underestimating the size and voice of older, whiter, less educated voters on this side of The Pond who long to “make America great again” — for a return to the 1950s? Might Donald Trump surprisingly pull the nationalist card from the deck, trumping Clinton, learned political scientists and a disbelieving media?