Loughborough University
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Immigration in UK newspapers during general election campaigns, 1918-2010

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posted on 2015-06-24, 08:25 authored by David [Social Sciences] Smith
Issues concerning immigration and asylum have attracted considerable news media coverage in countries of the Global North such as the United Kingdom during recent decades. The UK national press famous for its longevity, mass appeal and partisanship has been uniquely placed to report on and provide commentary about issues of social change such as these, especially as they have become more prominent in UK party politics. This thesis therefore analyses the press coverage of immigration issues in seven national newspapers during the final week of general election campaigns between 1918 and 2010 in order to provide a historical context to these recent developments. Using content analysis and critical discourse analysis methods, the study assesses several aspects of the representational pattern of immigration coverage and offers a perspective which emphasises continuities and contrasts across time and across the press. Over two empirical chapters, the content analysis provides a thorough profile of the coverage in terms of its volume, the news presence and access of social actors, the balance of supportive and critical voices in coverage, the lexicon used to describe immigrants and immigration processes and the themes of debate. The findings suggest that immigration has become a low-threshold political issue within recent campaigns, for which there is a core element of detailed discussion but an unprecedented expansion in superficial reference to such issues. The prominence, politicisation and problematisation of immigration have combined to frequently provide critical voices with a prominent platform. Meanwhile, supportive voices and those of immigrants were mostly marginalised. There was relatively little variation in the thematic dimension of coverage over time and to some extent across the press. A third empirical chapter offers a critical discourse analysis of the headlines in three main areas of coverage: precarious routes comprising forced and irregular migration, numbers and immigrants as voters and candidates. These aspects of the debate are examined in terms of our and their rights and responsibilities to reveal how the press has constructed the ethics and politics of immigration qualitatively.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© David Smith

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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