Revisiting how the national and swing-state media are covering top voting issues
Over a month ago, we dove into the media coverage surrounding key voting issues. Now less than a week to the election, we wanted to see how the media narratives have evolved since our last analysis with a focus on media coverage from the last 90 days. Additionally, we wanted to identify the events that led to spikes in coverage.
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Here are a few observations and takeaways from the data:
As we’ve learned, the economy is the number one issue for voters. Not surprisingly, it receives the most media coverage. In the last 90 days, there were more than 750k articles written about the economy. While the coverage is consistent week after week, there were a few factors like job reports, record stock prices, and the delay of the pandemic stimulus package that created spikes in coverage.
COVID-19, the fourth most important voting issue, has garnered the second highest amount of coverage – nearly 650k articles. We noticed in our last analysis that COVID-19 coverage was beginning to decline. In fact, since February, September received the least amount of coronavirus coverage of any month. However, with Trump’s diagnosis paired with surges across the country, October’s COVID-19 coverage is on the rise.
The Supreme Court
The death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (RBG) and the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett propelled the Supreme Court into media relevancy. Before RBG’s death on September 18th, the Supreme Court only trailed gun policy in total coverage – despite being the third most important voting issue. Since her death, the Supreme Court is the fourth most covered issue. Of all of the issues we’ve tracked, the death of RBG received the most single-day coverage with nearly 19k stories.
Unlike other issues, healthcare coverage experiences few ebbs and flows. It’s the second most important issue, and in the last 90 days, it has received the third most coverage. Though, since the death of RBG and the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett, healthcare news is trending up. In the last 30 days, healthcare mentions are up 61% and social shares are up 265%.
Climate change coverage is catastrophe driven. In the last 90 days, there have been numerous hurricanes and wildfires, which has shaped the climate change narrative. Yet, it still has garnered the fourth most coverage.
Sadly, racial inequality coverage is also event-driven. There were huge spikes in coverage after James Blake was shot in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and after a grand jury ruled in the Breonna Taylor case. In October, racial inequality coverage is down 41% compared to September; however, social shares are up 19%, which exemplifies the importance and relevancy of this issue.
What about local coverage?
It’s no secret, the keys to the white house are in the hands of voters from a handful of states. As we rapidly approach the election, we wanted to look at how local media in eight swing states are covering the election. Specifically, we wanted to answer:
- What are the top issues?
- Who receives the most coverage?
- Who has the most endorsements?
As expected, the top three issues across the board are COVID-19, the economy, and healthcare. Though the amount of coverage for each issue varies by state. By simply comparing headlines that contain “Trump” or “Biden” – Trump receives 2.3x more coverage than Biden. To maintain non-partisanship, we did not analyze the positive or negative sentiment of the Trump and Biden articles.
In terms of endorsements – we looked at headlines that contained syntax variations of “endorses Trump” OR “endorses Biden” that were published in each swing state Collectively, Biden has received 68 more endorsements.
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