Editor’s Note: This post was written by Kaitlyn Krolik and Brianna Russo.
Bernie Sanders’ media coverage has been a pressing issue among his supporters since he began to do well in the primaries. They feel that mainstream media outlets have a strong bias against the senator. Some supporters have expressed concern that the mainstream media have refused to discuss Sanders’ lead in several national polls against Hillary Clinton, and have undermined his successes as a whole throughout his campaign. Specifically, The New York Times has been accused of bias against Sanders and dismissing Sanders altogether. Some supporters claim that the mainstream media shows this bias because they favor Secretary Clinton and “wish to maintain a corporate status quo.” Recently, The Washington Post received a significant amount of backlash from Sanders’ supporters after releasing sixteen negative stories about Bernie Sanders within a 16 hour time period. Sanders supporters have also protested CNN, citing unequal coverage of all presidential candidates; they claim that CNN has spent more time covering Donald Trump than Sanders. Bernie Sanders himself has also spoken out about media bias against his campaign. He stated, “the media is an arm of the ruling class of this country.”
In order to analyze how the media has portrayed Sanders, we utilized Google News database and focused on the full months since Sanders announced his candidacy, June 2015 through March 2016. We used two measures to compare Sanders’ media attention to Clinton’s. First, we collected the number of articles that included the terms “Sanders” and “long shot” published since the start of his candidacy. We compared this to the number of articles that contained both “Sanders” and “long shot” without the mention of “Clinton.” In Figure 1 below, both numbers drastically increased once Sanders won New Hampshire in early February. This number continued to increase as Sanders won more primary races. This means that the media increased the amount of discussion about Sanders as a long shot since he began to win.
More importantly, Figure 2 depicts each candidate’s representation in the news without mention of the other. While Clinton’s media attention significantly increased as the primaries continued, attention to Sanders stayed consistent. This is notable as he has won 17 of the 40 primaries. As a “long shot” candidate who was not projected to make a dent in Clinton’s success, one would expect the media to increasingly discuss him. However, this was not the case.
The data presents an interesting representation of Sanders’ relationship with the media. As Sanders began to perform beyond expectations, the media was more inclined to suggest that he was a long shot (as shown in Figure 1). The data also shows that when Sanders is mentioned in the media, whether it be as a long shot or otherwise, it is almost always with reference to Secretary Clinton. The data presented in both figures shows that Sanders is much more likely to be mentioned in an article with Secretary Clinton than he is to be mentioned alone. For Clinton, the data shows the exact opposite; she is much more likely to be mentioned in an article without reference to Sanders. The data we present clearly shows that the media favors Clinton in more ways than one, whether it be by giving her more attention or presenting her as the presumptive nominee. While our study does not go in depth as to the tone and context of each article we found in the Google News database, it does offer a good starting point to defend the argument that the media has a slight bias against Senator Sanders.
|Sanders, long shot minus Clinton||Sanders, long shot minus Clinton||Sanders, long shot||Sanders minus Clinton||Clinton minus Sanders|
|2/1/16-3/1/16||7820||Right after NH primary||19400||38300||246000|