Ever since the EU referendum was held in 2016, Brexit has become the defining issue of a generation. Brexit has taken centre stage in the UK’s political discourse and is being covered heavily in the news, both in the UK and around the world. People are interested in Brexit and therefore want to read about Brexit. Yet, there is little or no understanding of who the readers actually are.
Understanding the demographic composition of Brexit readers is an increasingly important piece of a larger Brexit puzzle. In fact, one could argue that it is the most important piece of said puzzle. What people read is a mirror of what they think, and knowing the degree of attention that Brexit commands across vital demographics in the UK will provide new insights into Brexit.
This Showcase provides data-driven answers to the following questions:
Existing studies which attempt to answer these questions follow traditional polling methodology and therefore suffer from fundamental limitations. First, polls use sampling, with only a tiny fraction of a larger population being surveyed. Second, they require significant funding for any meaningful results. Third, there is often a considerable time lag between the time of the poll and the point at which it is published.
At Echobox, we are particularly well placed to conduct this study without any of the above limitations, given our unique relationships with publishers in the UK and across the world. Through our service, we have a rare bird’s-eye view on what people are reading about at any given point in time.
The above timeline depicts how important the news topic “Brexit” is in the UK, relative to all other topics people can read about online. Pageviews of news articles with “Brexit” mentioned are divided by all other available articles to get the ratio.
Certain spikes in the timeline are visible, as they relate to specific events surrounding Brexit. Over the past 4 months, Brexit accounted for 1.63% of all consumed news. For context, Love Island accounted for 1.06% of all news over the same time period, Football for 0.83% and Tennis for 0.07%.
The above map gives an indication of which regions across the UK read most about Brexit. The 3 most interested regions are Isle of Wight, Strabane and South Gloucestershire. The 3 least interested are West Dunbartonshire, East Ayrshire and East Renfrewshire.
The metric used is the region’s deviation in % pageviews from the national average. Regions are greyed if insufficient data was retrieved. All London boroughs display the average of Greater London.
For instance, 2.2% of news articles consumed in Cambridgeshire were about Brexit, whereas the national average is 1.63%. Therefore the deviation of Cambridgeshire from the national average is +38%. This means news readers in Cambridgeshire are +38% more interested in Brexit than the rest of the UK.
Interestingly, Londoners are far more interested in Brexit (13%) than the rest of the UK (-4.5%).
Brexit also commands more attention across Wales and Northern Ireland (especially along the Irish border). Readers in the South of England read proportionally less about Brexit, although there are some notable exceptions (Isle of Wight and East Sussex).
This chart shows the interest in Brexit amongst age groups.
The blue bars exhibit the size of readership specifically for Brexit for each age group. The grey bars depict the total readership for each age group for any content. The green line is the difference between the blue and grey bars and illustrates how important Brexit is for each age group. For instance, 35-44 year olds account for 20% of all Brexit-related pageviews and for 22% of all pageviews. 35-44 year olds are therefore 12% less interested in Brexit than other age groups.
The most telling insight here is the upward trend of interest (green line). The older the age group, the more interested they are in Brexit. Young readers (18-24 and 25-34 year olds) show a disproportionate lack of interest in Brexit (-30% and -19% respectively). Readers above 65, however, seem far more interested in Brexit than any other age group (+47%).
This chart shows which gender group is more interested in Brexit.
Similar to the age group graph above, the blue bars give the size of readership specifically for Brexit for each gender. The grey bars show the total readership for each gender across any content. The green line is the difference between the blue and grey bars and illustrates how important Brexit is amongst each gender. The overall readership between female (47%) and male (53%) in the UK closely resembles the UK population (51% female and 49% male).
Surprisingly, Brexit readership is heavily tilted towards male readers with 68%, whereas female readers only represent 32% of all Brexit readers. This means male readers are more than twice as interested in Brexit than female readers.
The above treemap answers the question of where people access Brexit news. The size and color of a box reflect the importance of a traffic source.
Google seems to be the leading source, generating 51% of all traffic to Brexit news (45% Google Search and 6% Google News). Social Media is the second largest source with 22%. Facebook accounts for 16% of all Brexit traffic, Twitter 5% and others 1%.
This treemap gives an understanding on what other interests Brexit readers have. The size and color of a box reflect the importance of an interest.
The listed interests are from Google Analytics’ list of “Affinity Audience” categories and are the same Google offers in their own advertising platform. It’s to be noted that the same reader can share multiple interests, therefore the sum of all interests is higher than 100%.
Brexit readers are categorised as “Avid News Readers”, “Book Lovers”, “Entertainment News Enthusiasts”, “Avid Political News Readers” and “TV Lovers”. Some more surprising interests include “30 Minute Chefs”, “Sports Fans” and “Green Living Enthusiasts”.
This final pie chart shows which devices are most used to read about Brexit.
Most Brexit readers use mobile phones (65.2%). Desktop and tablet readers are more closely tied at 18.7% and 16.2% respectively.
This Showcase has provided some never seen before insights into who Brexit readers actually are. For instance, Brexit articles only account for 1.63% of pageviews of all the news in the UK. 68% of all Brexit readers are male and younger readers seem far less interested in Brexit than their older counterparts.
Further analyses could be done to dive into more detail. For instance, a timeline of a specific age group could indicate whether single events had an impact in changing their interest in Brexit. Or a more granular geographic analysis could shed light on towns and cities, not just regions. The above analyses can also be done for topics unrelated to Brexit.
We hope you enjoyed the Brexit Showcase. We’re open to receiving your feedback on Twitter. Feel free to tweet @EchoboxHQ!
For this Showcase, we picked 35 of the largest UK publishers (including the Guardian, the Sun, the Times etc) in our network and analysed their UK readers. We aggregated and anonymised data from Google Analytics. Overall, we analysed 95.8 million pageviews and 12,938 news articles for this analysis.
None of this is personal data about readers, as Google Analytics doesn’t provide personal data in the first place. The time period analysed is from 29th April 2019 to 6th September 2019. The underlying metric used for these analyses are pageviews of news articles that include the keyword “Brexit” (case insensitive). A pageview is recorded each time a page is loaded in the browser, as per Google’s definition. All traffic sources are included in this analysis (direct traffic, search, social, etc).
This Showcase does by no means tries to make a political point, nor was it requested by any third party. It is public information and its publication is solely driven by our true passion for data science.
Anyone is permitted to use the Brexit Showcase for personal, commercial or academic purposes. All we ask for is that you mention Echobox with a link back to either the Brexit Showcase or our main website and/or add our logo (dark, bright, transparent dark or transparent bright).