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EU Referendum Debate

EU Referendum debate- who won the media?

June 17th, 2016 - Posted by Mary Frericks in Political Media Tracker

On Tuesday 7 June Prime Minister David Cameron went 'head-to-head' with United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage in a televised debate over the UK's continued membership of the European Union (EU).  The debate, which is one of two question and answer programmes Cameron has agreed to take part in, has stirred controversy in the media.  We look at the effect the debate had on each speaker's media profile, and what it has meant for the campaign as a whole.  

A controversial decision

The recent question and answer session with David Cameron and Nigel Farage separately debating the UK's continued membership of the European Union has seen ITV criticised for allowing the UKIP leader to represent the Leave Campaign.

The official Leave campaign threatened to take broadcaster ITV to court for scheduling Farage as its representative in the debate.  The Leave campaign claims the only reason Farage was chosen was to secure Cameron's attendance, as he wanted to avoid a televised debate with another member of the Conservative Party such as Boris Johnson or Michael Gove.

A strategic win for Farage

Following direction from presenter Julie Etchingham, the two politicians took turns answering questions from a studio audience.  Facing long, drawn out questions and heated answers on both sides, neither politician appeared to 'win' the debate.

Writing for The Guardian, Gary Younge said: "The overall effect illustrated the trouble with the whole campaign so far – people talking over each other, but rarely to each other."  Younge described Cameron's rhetoric as "smoother" but that "strategically Farage had the best of him."

Using Nexis Analyser to visualise each politician's media profile in the two days leading up to the event and the two days after supports this view, showing that Farage and consequently the Leave campaign experienced the biggest impact.  To get a clear picture of where the UK National Newspapers focused, we analysed articles where either individual appeared in the headline and the other did not appear at all.

As would be expected, Cameron had a significant lead on Farage the day before the debate, while Farage commanded between 20 and 30 per cent of the Prime Minister's media profile during and after the debate.

EU Referendum Pre-Debate Media

Analysing the media profile of both Cameron and Farage throughout the month of June shows that the positive effect debate had on Farage's media profile is ongoing. On June 15 Farage's profile even exceeded the Prime Minister's and throughout June Farage's 'Share Of Voice' between the two has increased to more than 25%.

EU Referendum Debate Share of Voice

Sentiment dropping as people speak out

Four days before the event the tracker showed that despite a significant boost to the leave campaign, there was still everything to play for. While some may argue that as the more experienced debater Cameron may have come out ahead of Farage during the debate, he has not given the Remain campaign the boost it needs to move ahead.

EU Referendum Debate Buzz analysis

At the time of writing the LexisNexis EU Referendum Political Media Tracker shows the Leave campaign is leading in terms of social and online media profile: 'Buzz Over Time' consistently favours out; 'Share Of Voice' for out is more than 56%; immigration is the main issue being discussed and sentiment is becoming steadily more negative.

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