Coverage of the EU Referendum in the UK's national press is "heavily skewed in favour of Brexit," a study has suggested.
Of 928 articles analysed by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, 45 per cent were in favour of leaving while 27 per cent were in favour of staying.
Nineteen per cent of the remaining articles were "mixed or undecided" while 9 per cent adopted no position.
The study analysed articles in nine national newspapers over two sample days of coverage each week during the first two months of the referendum campaign, following David Cameron's post-summit Cabinet meeting on 20 February.
What has the EU ever done for us?
What has the EU ever done for us?
1/7 1. It gives you freedom to live, work and retire anywhere in Europe
As a member of the EU, UK citizens benefit from freedom of movement across the continent. Considered one of the so-called four pillars of the European Union, this freedom allows all EU citizens to live, work and travel in other member states.
2/7 2. It sustains millions of jobs
A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, released in October 2015, suggested 3.1 million British jobs were linked to the UK’s exports to the EU.
3/7 3. Your holiday is much easier - and safer
Freedom to travel is one of the most exercised benefits of EU membership, with Britons having made 31 million visits to the EU in 2014 alone. But a lot of the benefits of being an EU citizen are either taken for granted or go unnoticed.
4/7 4. It means you're less likely to get ripped off
Consumer protection is a key benefit of the EU’s single market, and ensures members of the British public receive equal consumer rights when shopping anywhere in Europe.
5/7 5. It offers greater protection from terrorists, paedophiles, people traffickers and cyber-crime
Another example of a lesser-known advantage of EU membership is the benefit of cross-country coordination and cooperation in the fight against crime.
6/7 6. Our businesses depend on it
According to 71% of all members of the Confederation of British Influence (CBI), and 67 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the EU has had an overall positive impact on their business.
7/7 7. We have greater influence
Robin Niblett, Director of think-tank Chatham House, stated in a report published last year: “For a mid-sized country like the UK, which will never again be economically dominant either globally or regionally, and whose diplomatic and military resources are declining in relative terms, being a major player in a strong regional institution can offer a critical lever for international influence.
The findings also reveal newspapers were more likely to quote Conservative rather than Labour politicians, 69 to 14 per cent, during the first two months of the campaign.
Positions vary greatly between newspapers, with the Daily Mail including the most pro-leave articles, followed by the Daily Express, the Daily Star, the Sun and the Daily Telegraph.
The newspapers with the most pro-remain articles were, in order, the Daily Mirror, the Guardian, and the Financial Times.
Articles in the Times were "evenly balanced between the two positions, with a slight preponderance of pro-leave articles," the study says.
While all newspapers, whatever their main position, included some articles from the other point of view, the proportion of these was smallest in the Daily Express and Daily Mirror.
The preliminary findings also show there were 42 articles focused on the referendum on an average day, with the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Times having the highest number.
They were followed by the Financial Times, Daily Express and Guardian. The Sun, Daily Mirror and Daily Star had the fewest.
The most cited arguments made in either pro-leave or pro-remain news stories were: the economy/business (33 per cent), sovereignty (29 per cent), migration (18 per cent), regulations (14 per cent) and terrorism/security (6 per cent).
In terms of the arguments used by different publications, the Sun and the Daily Mirror both relied heavily on arguments around sovereignty, despite having divergent positions.
The four broadsheet publications, the Financial Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph and Times all focused more on arguments around the economy and less on sovereignty.
Making the case to leave, the Daily Express, Daily Star and Daily Mail focused on the issue of migration.
The report's preliminary analysis is based on coverage over the period of 20 February to 26 April. The full report will cover research for the period from 20 February to 21 June and will be published in September.
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