We’ve complained with long and wearisome repetitiveness about just how long and wearisomely repetitive the EU referendum campaign has been. Yet now, suddenly, just as fatigue has crept in, it’s getting feverishly intense as we’re sucked in by the increasingly heated, and personal arguments.
When John Major gets vicious, it’s like the Vicar of Dibley pulling out a flick knife – all the more compelling for its unexpectedness and for the realisation of the growing sense of panic that drives him, and the rest of the Tory hierarchy into highly watchable civil war, albeit one that affects all of us.
So, in such an atmosphere, the introduction of the topic of immigration immediately sets off alarm bells and the possibility of dog whistles. In amongst such tinnitus many assume that any debate that centres around immigration will, sooner or later, be prefixed with the phrase ‘I’m not racist but…’
Immigration is at the core of the debate in the campaign and on social platforms, especially as polls have shown in recent days, and is the single most important topic pushing the UK towards Brexit. Yet a close look at the social data shows that the debate is less openly xenophobic than you might think (or at least delivered with more subtlety than expected).
The #Remain camp are finding themselves going into battle without coherent arguments, and are losing the online debates as a result.
Social media analysis company Impact Social looked at over 73,000 social media posts (including forums and comments on open news sites) over the past week, revealing in the first instance that the sentiment around immigration is overwhelmingly against.
At 48% the negative reaction to the term is double that of those posting comments in favour (at 24% for those of you struggling with the maths). The neutrality of the remainder rather belies the fact that, for most people on social media, when you have an opinion about immigration, the rest of us won’t die wondering what it might be. Strong opinions regularly delivered.