"BREXIT BEST FOR TACKLING MIGRANTS" A Critical Discourse Analysis on the Discursive Representation of Refugees, Asylum-seekers, Immigrants and Migrants in The Guardian and The Daily Mail in the Run Up to the 2016 Brexit Referendum
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The current study investigates the discursive representation of refugees, asylum-seekers, immigrants and migrants (RASIM) in 120 articles published by The Guardian and The Daily Mail in the run up to the 2016 Brexit referendum. Through this referendum, Britons were to decide whether or not the UK should continue its membership of the European Union. The political campaigns that preceded the referendum evoked debates surrounding immigration. The Leave campaign argued that exiting the EU would allow the UK to take back control over its borders and protect the country against incoming migrants, hereby appealing to the concerns over immigration prevalent amongst the British public. Considering the devastating consequences anti-immigration attitudes and policies have for people that seek a safe place to reside, the question of how these attitudes come about is of particular concern. It has often been suggested that the representation of social groups in the media plays a significant role in the public attitudes towards those groups (e.g. Héricourt & Spielvogel, 2014; van Klingeren et al., 2015). In the run up to the Brexit referendum, British news media extensively covered topics related to immigration, hereby providing representations of RASIM. This study examined these representations through a Critical Discourse Analysis (Fairclough, 1989) that focused on the textual, discursive and social dimensions of the discourse under study. The different ideological stances that The Guardian and The Daily Mail took with regards to the Brexit provided the opportunity to examine the representations and link them to the sociocultural context in which they were generated. It was found that The Guardian represented RASIM as a heterogenic group while providing more detailed information on people’s personal stories. It also employed strategies that to a certain extent led to the victimization of RASIM. The Daily Mail, on the other hand, represented RASIM as a more homogenic group. It put RASIM’s legitimacy to question and contributed to the collective criminalization of RASIM. Overall, The Daily Mail’s representation created a more negative image of RASIM. This may have evoked more negative stances towards immigration among the public, which may have indirectly contributed to the fact that the UK eventually voted Leave on the referendum. Both newspapers’ representations were exemplary of the way in which dominant Western discourses have the power represent minority groups as Others, and to reinforce already existing narratives, hereby carrying out ownership over the discursive construction of RASIM. A limitation of this study is that it did not investigate the causal relationship between people’s news consumption of representations of RASIM and their attitudes towards RASIM. Therefore, for future research, the further investigation of this relationship through cognitive/psycholinguistic approaches was suggested.