The 2016 EU Referendum Campaign on Social Media: Uncivil MPs and Campaign Groups?

Esmeralda V. Bon, Annemarie Walter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The 2016 EU referendum campaign is said to have been characterised by fear, slander and populist calls to action. But was the 2016 EU referendum campaign that incivil? This chapter examines the use of political incivility by British MPs and campaign groups during the 2016 EU referendum campaign by comparing their separate and combined use of swear words, slurs, offensive words, negative exclamations and lack of politeness in their Facebook postings. We find that British campaign groups and MPs did run a primarily civil EU referendum campaign on Facebook. Only a small percentage of all Facebook posts contains political incivility, of which more incivil posts were from campaign groups than MPs and of “Leave” campaign groups than “Remain” campaign groups. In addition, we find tentative evidence that the murder of Jo Cox reduced the use of political incivility by campaign groups, but not MPs, in the final weeks of the campaign.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPolitical Incivility in the Parliamentary, Electoral and Media Arena
Subtitle of host publicationCrossing Boundaries
EditorsAnnemarie Walter
ISBN (Print)9780367462734
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 19 Dec 2020

Publication series

NamePolitical Parties and Party Systems


  • Political incivility
  • Brexit
  • EU Referendum
  • Political campaign
  • MPs
  • Campaign groups

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Cathie Marsh Institute


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