A recent study shows a staggering 77 percent of news coverage of Donald Trump during the general election was negative, which outweighed negative coverage of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton by 13 percent.
Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy released a study Wednesday comparing news coverage of Trump and Clinton during the general election, and the results show The Donald was correct to question the media’s biased reporting.
The study – gleaned from reports by ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, the Los Angeles Times, NBC, The New York Times, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post – showed that news coverage of Trump after the primaries was 77 percent negative and 23 percent positive. For Clinton, the figures were 36 percent positive and 64 percent negative.
“Negative coverage was the order of the day in the general election. Not a week passed where the nominees’ coverage reached into positive territory,” author of the study, professor Thomas E. Patterson, wrote on the Shorestein Center website. “It peaked at 81 percent negative in mid-October, but there was not a single week where it dropped below 64 percent negative.”
The negative news coverage is part of a trend in journalism that dates back to 1984, the last year presidential nominees garnered more positive coverage than negative. And it’s not just nominees receiving negative press, stories about immigration, Muslims, health care and the economy have also been overwhelmingly negative, Patterson wrote.
“Not since 1984—eight elections ago—have the presidential nominees enjoyed positive press coverage. The 2016 campaign did not even top the record for negativity. That distinction belongs to the 2000 campaign when news reports questioned whether Al Gore was trustworthy enough and George W. Bush was smart enough to deserve the presidency,” according to the study.
“In recent years, when immigration has been the subject of news stories, the ratio of negative stories to positive ones has been 5-to-1. In that same period, news reports featuring Muslims have been 6-to-1 negative. News stories about health care policy, most of which centered on the 2010 Affordable Care Act, have been 2-to-1 negative. Although the nation’s economy has steadily improved since the financial crisis of 2008, one would not know that from the tone of news coverage. Since 2010, news stories about the nation’s economy have been 2-to-1 negative over positive.”
News coverage of Trump during the primary included some positive stories about his growing momentum and rising poll numbers, but the general election was much different.
“His coverage was negative from the start, and never came close to entering positive territory. During his best weeks, the coverage ran 2-to-1 negative over positive. In his worst weeks, the ratio was more than 10-to-1. If there was a silver lining for Trump, it was that his two best weeks were the ones just preceding the November balloting,” Patterson wrote.
“Trump’s coverage was negative in all the news outlets in our study, even those that typically side with the Republican nominee. Fox provided Trump his most favorable coverage, but it was still nearly 3-to-1 negative over positive. The Wall Street Journal was his next best outlet, but its coverage ran 4-to-1 negative. The most negative coverage was carried by CBS at 9-to-1, but Trump’s coverage was nearly as negative in most other outlets.”
And for Clinton, things were a little different, though still mostly negative.
“Like Trump, Clinton’s coverage during the general election was unfavorable in all the news outlets in our study. But the level of negativity varied more widely in her case,” according to the study. “In the Los Angeles Times, she came close to ending up in positive territory. The breakdown was 53 percent negative to 47 percent positive. In all other outlets, negative coverage outpaced positive coverage by more than 60-40. Fox News was on the high end, allocating its coverage 81 percent negative to 19 percent positive. The other outlier was The Washington Post where her coverage was 77 percent negative to 23 percent positive.”
Patterson contends that “the real bias of the press is not that it’s liberal. Its bias is a decided preference for the negative.”
“A healthy dose of negativity is unquestionably a good thing,” he wrote. “Yet an incessant stream of criticism has a corrosive effect. It needlessly erodes trust in political leaders and institutions and undermines confidence in government and policy.”
Newsmax highlighted the Shorenstein Center study and pointed out at least one way some news sites seemed to have stacked the deck in Clinton’s favor.
“ … The Washington Post announced in early May it was assigning 20 reporters specifically to look into Trump’s past,” according to the site. “The Post’s Bob Woodward said at the time it also was working to get to the ‘essence’ of Clinton, but did not say whether the paper had assigned 20 reporters to her case.”
Patterson’s study posed the question:
“Were the allegations surround Clinton of the same order of magnitude as those surrounding Trump?”
He contends “it’s a question that political reporters made no serious effort to answer during the 2016 campaign.”