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Brexit debate results: David Cameron v Nigel Farage

On the 7th June, the UK EU referendum took centre stage with a televised debate. David Cameron argued for Britain remaining in the EU, while Nigel Farage argued the case for Brexit.

The debate was a heated affair with Cameron accusing those backing Brexit of being “little Englanders” and “quitters” who were “prepared to sacrifice jobs” to achieve their goal.

Farage countered by claiming there was more to the issue than GDP and “the rich getting richer” as “ordinary decent people…are having a rotten time”.

In order to understand who came out on top, we used our comprehensive media monitoring and analysis platform to investigate the response to the debate.

Who won the Brexit debate?

While both David Cameron and Nigel Farage saw a decline in sentiment, Cameron’s sentiment score (4.54)* for the day of the debate was 25% ahead of Farage’s (3.39).

Figure 1: Cameron v Farage sentiment scores following Brexit debate

David Cameron v Nigel Farage Brexit debate

Over the previous 31 days, Farage had a higher average percentage and the negative response to him was much more pronounced following the Brexit debate. While Cameron was only 6% lower than his average score, Farage’s score was 34% lower than his average, falling 29% day-on-day. In fact, this was the worst single day for Farage since early February and 19% lower than anything in the previous 31 days.

Figure 2: Cameron v Farage sentiment scores for previous 31 days 

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.56.30

What is driving the Brexit debate?

Farage has positioned his Brexit campaign strongly around immigration, with 96% of coverage related to him in the previous five days connected to this issue. While David Cameron would clearly prefer to highlight other issues, such as defence and GDP, he has also been forced to focus on immigration, with 79% of his content related to this issue.

Figure 3: Nigel Farage: Issues by volume for previous 5 days

Nigel Farage: Brexit Issues by volume

Figure 4: David Cameron: Issues by volume for previous 5 days

David Cameron: Brexit Issues by volume

Overall, this was a good outcome for David Cameron and the “remain” campaign, but this appears to be due to the negative response to Nigel Farage more than his own performance. However, numerous commentators highlighted that Cameron still lacks a clear narrative on immigration and as this has become such a dominant issue, the final decision is still in the balance.



*Sentiment scores are on a scale of 1-10, with 5.5 representing a neutral score. A score of above 5.5 is positive, while a score below 5.5 is considered negative.

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