The campaign started with MPs, especially Conservative MPs and Cabinet members, choosing whether they would declare for ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’. In the first week, it was major Conservative figures like Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, and others backing Leave that dominated the public’s awareness, and this set the trend for the entire first month of the campaign. Indeed, the public remain fascinated by Boris Johnson’s involvement and his pronouncements on the benefits of Brexit; in three of the four weeks of the campaign so far, he has been the most noticed news story.
Only the Queen, in the form of The Sun’s (contested) claim that Her Majesty backs the UK leaving the EU, has been able to take the top spot from Boris Johnson. Other personalities playing a role in the first month have included Bank of England governor Mark Carney, US President Barack Obama, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and French leader Francois Hollande. Many of these personalities are noted for their comments about the risks of Brexit.
Of the issues under debate, one in particular has captured the public’s imagination; immigration. The issue has featured in the top 10 every week, and is often accompanied by other related stories, like the clearance of the so-called ‘jungle’ in Calais and negotiations between Turkey and the EU over migrant flows.
Other major media stories making the top 10s over the weeks include 36 FTSE 100 leaders backing Remain, the resignation of former British of Chambers of Commerce lead John Longworth, and the allegations, from both sides, that their rivals are engaged in scaremongering. It is notable, however, that the public rarely recalls the detail of these stories, and they are much less noticed than those involving major personalities.