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Similarities and Differences in the Argumentative Characteristics of the Official Brexit Campaigns

Author:

James E. Sanders

London School of Economics and Political Science, GB
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Abstract

This paper adds to the growing empirical literature surrounding the UK's vote to leave the European Union. Specifically, a series of quantitative and qualitative textual analysis tools are implemented on a corpus consisting of the websites of Vote Leave (VL) and Britain Stronger in Europe (BSE). By breaking down argumentative text into two components, this paper attempts to characterise how the two official campaigns differ in the information they choose to convey (or “focus"), and the style by which this information is conveyed. To analyse variation in focus, a structural topic model and thematic analysis of elementary context units are conducted with the inclusion of document-level metadata. This is then compared to survey data and their potential effectiveness is considered. To study the style of information transmission, an analysis of sentiment is used to calculate sentence-level polarity scores. An unambiguous thematic divide is uncovered with BSE employing a “focussed" approach by singling out topics related to the economy, whereas VL chose a “scattershot" approach by spreading their resources across a broader range of themes. The thematic analysis uncovers little reciprocity in most major areas — a notable exception being public services, which acted as a battleground. BSE's focussed approach allowed it to target the most influential topic for the electorate, but despite this, VL's approach led to a greater targeted proportion. A sentiment analysis yields two results: (A) the variability in sentence-level polarity scores was consistent across campaigns, and (2) BSE's website had a significantly greater mean score.

 

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How to Cite: Sanders, J.E., 2018. Similarities and Differences in the Argumentative Characteristics of the Official Brexit Campaigns. LSE Undergraduate Political Review, 1, pp.1–21.
Published on 19 Jan 2018.
Peer Reviewed

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