Migration in the Media and Public Opinion in Britain

June 2012 – May 2013
Overview Outputs News & Media
Back to Projects


This research project developed from the observation that, while a number of small-scale studies have shown how certain subsections of the UK national press covered migration issues in largely negative light, there was not a great deal of systematic or comprehensive evidence that could demonstrate these statement either over a longer period of time or across multiple sets of publications. As migration has climbed toward the top of the political agenda in Britain, the relationship between media coverage and public attitudes has become a vital question for researchers and policy-makers. Public opinion is a key justification for government policies aimed at reduced net migration. But surprisingly little is known about the roots of public opinion in information about immigration.

This project capitalised on new methods for analysing what is commonly known as ‘big data’ and provides a quantitative analysis of the language used by all 20 of Britain’s main national daily and Sunday newspapers. It covered all news stories, letters and other published content dealing with migrants and migration from the beginning of 2010 to the end of 2012. This analysis involved computer-aided analysis of a ‘corpus’ of some 58,000 news stories and other newspaper items, made-up of more than 43 million words. The results provide both useful insights into the language used and the ways that different types of newspaper approach the subject of immigration, as well as a bed of evidence for further social science investigations into the subject of migration in the media.

Principal Investigator

Scott Blinder


Will Allen


The John Fell/OUP Fund