From campaign rallies to press conferences, President Trump rarely misses an opportunity to tell the American people that the mainstream media holds an unfair bias against him. Beginning to sound like a worn out record player, the President keeps repeating this accusation, while the press keeps producing more and more negative stories about him. But is there actually statistical proof that the media is biased against Trump? A new report finds that there may be.
The report, released Wednesday by Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, analyzes Trump’s news coverage during his first 100 days in office. It examines news reports from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC; as well as three European news outlets (Financial Times, BBC, and ARD).
The study found that, even for a president, Trump received an unprecedented amount of media coverage. As the topic of 41 percent of all news stories on national television, Trump’s amount of coverage was three times as high as that of previous presidents.
Trump’s domination of media has not benefitted him. As the Harvard study notes, “Of news reports with a clear tone, negative reports outpaced positive ones by 80 percent to 20 percent.”
CNN and NBC were both 93 percent critical of Trump. 91 percent of CBS’s coverage was negative. The New York Times (87 percent negative), The Washington Post (83 percent negative), and The Wall Street Journal (70 percent negative) were also predominantly critical of the new President. Even Fox News, which was the most positive towards Trump of the media outlets analyzed, has produced negative coverage of Trump 52 percent of the time. Over in Europe, ARD was 98 percent negative, Financial Times was 84 percent negative, and BBC was 74 percent negative.
Not once during his first 100 days in office did negative press coverage drop below 70 percent. Even during his best week, when Trump ordered the missile strike in Syria, his ratings only reached 30 percent positive.
Factors which contribute to the media’s obsession with covering Trump are not hard to identify. Since the very beginning of his presidential campaign, covering Trump was a journalist’s dream gig. They liked covering him because, being a celebrity, he was beneficial for business. He generated clicks.
He also had certain characteristics which drove the media to obsess with him. He was unfiltered. He was entertaining. He was new to politics. Put simply, he was different from all the other candidates. The media loved him, and Trump loved being in the spotlight. He filled his calendar with countless interviews, dominating the news throughout the entire race for the White House.
This helps to explain why Trump has continued to receive so much coverage and was the topic of 41 percent of all national television news stories during his first 100 days.
What remains to be answered, though, is why his press coverage is up to 98 percent negative. The study suggests that it is because a “honeymoon” period of positive press coverage for a newly inaugurated president no longer exists. But that alone cannot explain the anti-Trump media phenomenon,, since the report itself says that presidents have not been afforded a “honeymoon” period for several decades.
If that were the explanation, the study should have found negative reporting on Trump at similar levels to that of other presidents from the last decades. Yet the Harvard report notes:
“Trump’s coverage during his first 100 days was negative even by the standards of today’s hyper-critical press. Studies of earlier presidents found nothing comparable to the level of unfavorable coverage afforded Trump.”
Citing a book written nearly two decades ago, the publishers of the study claim “Although journalists are accused of having a liberal bias, their real bias is a preference for the negative.” Their own statistics, though, seem to suggest otherwise as Trump receives a disproportionate amount of negative coverage as compared to his liberal predecessor Barack Obama.
Trump now has statistical evidence to prove that, as he has been claiming for months, the mainstream media does indeed have an excessively negative view of him and constantly reports on him unfairly.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore