The Brexit Saga – Sentiment Analysis of the Story So Far

The Brexit issue has dominated British and European politics for the last four years and on Friday 31st January, the UK finally left the European Union. This subject has proved hugely divisive in the UK, but how was Brexit viewed elsewhere?

We utilized our News API to analyze sentiment regarding Brexit from June 24th 2016 – the day the UK held a referendum of on whether to leave or remain – and Friday 31st January – the day the UK officially left the EU.

Brexit News Sentiment

We were interested in investigating how sentiment in the Media towards Brexit changed over time. Utilizing Aylien’s News API we:

  • Pulled all news stories that featured “Brexit” in the body of the article
  • Split the stories by positive and negative sentiment (neutral stories were omitted)
  • Visualized them on a graph where negative sentiment stories are represented as negative numbers

Needless to say, media attention spiked at significant moments in the journey, such as the referendum results day and the general election.

Hover over the markers for contextual information on these spikes.

We found this granular daily view of stories difficult to assess the overall trend in the media so we:

  • aggregated the number of stories per month
  • calculated the average sentiment per month

This gives us a much easier-to-read indication of whether the media reacted positively or negatively to Brexit over time – at a quick glance, it’s clear the media reaction was overwhelmingly negative.

How the Wider World views Brexit

As we can see from the first graph, the distribution of positive and negative stories is highly polarized. However, if we look at these stories in a country by country context, we may see a very different media reaction.

We isolated stories by country utilizing Aylien’s country source location parameter.

Interestingly, the media in the UK is split relatively evenly – no doubt reflective of the divided politics of the people – while other European countries such as Germany are clearly negatively disposed to Brexit.

It is worth pointing out that France has a surprisingly low volume of stories when compared with Germany. We suspect that France – a nation proud of its native tongue and ever vigilant to the dangers of English terms entering their lexicon – is intentionally not using the term Brexit (read here how the Académie Française wishes to limit use of the word “Brexit”).

Note, the charts below use different y-axes per country so volumes of stories are not directly comparable.

If we calculate the average sentiment per country, per month, the media reaction in the UK on a whole is slightly more negative. Regardless of journalists’ pro-leave or remain stance, it would appear that the constant checks and delays on the withdrawal process were not received well.

Meanwhile, negative reaction by German media to Brexit is accentuated even further.

While the UK has finally left the EU, the saga will inevitably continue as political, economic and cultural repercussions continue to arise.

One thing’s for sure – the Brexit fallout will continue to capture media attention.

Start your Free Trial
Let's Talk