Public Opinion

Negative media coverage leads to negative attitudes

The REMINDER project tested how different types of stories shape the way people think about free movement in Europe.

Researchers asked groups of people (in total more than 7,000 individuals) to read a variety of fictional articles which described the economic and labour market impacts of free movement, dealing with both immigration and emigration, in positive and negative ways. The results showed that articles focusing on negative implications of free movement on the economy and labour market led to more negative attitudes toward free movement than the articles focusing on positive implications. This effect was significant in Spain and Sweden, and the results indicate that the effects of news coverage focusing on intra-EU immigration might be stronger in countries with higher unemployment rates.

We also looked at whether journalistic style matters — in particular whether it made a difference if the stories shared the information from the perspective of a particular person or from baseline data. We didn’t find evidence of any significant difference in the impact from these two approaches.

What do some of those negative attitudes look like?