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The 2024 State of the Media Report

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The 2020 State of the Election Part IV

"I voted" sticker, American flag, Capital building

Media coverage of the presidential town halls and Supreme Court

Two weeks ago, we at Cision assessed the most salient issues of the 2020 election. Of the eight issues we analyzed, Supreme Court nominations received the second least amount of coverage – 1.4% of the total share of voice – despite being ranked the third most important voting issue by Pew Research. Because of the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court appointments have propelled to the top of voters’ minds.  

Before we look at the data, Cision wants to express our deepest condolences to the Bader Ginsburg family. “Justice Ginsburg was a champion of equality and inclusion, a voice for the voiceless, and a role model for millions,” says Cision’s Chief Marketing Officer, Maggie Lower. “Her brilliant mind, fighting spirit, and compassionate soul are core to Cision’s values, and we are saddened by her loss but inspired by her legacy.” 

In this week’s State of the Election, we look at how the death of Justice Ginsburg has reshaped the election narrative. Additionally, we'll review the coverage surrounding both President Trump’s and Joe Biden’s televised town halls.  

Ruth Bader Ginsburg 

Before Friday, September 18th – the Supreme Court was a quiet topic. Our “Supreme Court” search tracks any earned article that mentions any of the nine Supreme Court Justices or that talks about Trump/Biden’s potential Supreme Court nominees. In the 30 days between August 18th and September 17th, we tracked just over 15k supreme court mentions. In the three days after Ginsburg’s death, nearly 30k stories were published – generating significantly more coverage than any of the top voter issues.  

In days and weeks to come, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looks to bring President Trump’s Supreme Court nomination to a vote, the Supreme Court will prove to be one of the most covered and controversial issues of the election. We will continue to track supreme court coverage and are especially curious to understand how local media in swing states will cover the nomination.  

Presidential Town Halls 

Last week, both President Trump and Biden answered questions from undecided Pennsylvania voters at town halls hosted by ABC News and CNN. As we’ve come to expect, Trump’s town hall received the lion’s share of the attention. Comparing earned media headlines that exclusively mentioned “Trump” or “Biden” showed that Trump-focused stories received more than 2x the coverage and 33.5x more social engagement.  

The top key issue takeaways from Trump’s coverage were, ranked in order by mentions: 

  1. Coronavirus 
  2. Law & Order 
  3. The economy 
  4. Immigration  

Similarly, Biden’s top key issues were: 

  1. Coronavirus 
  2. The economy 
  3. Law & order 
  4. Climate Change 

While it’s important to understand the key issues at stake we need more context to understand how these issues are framed. By looking at a number of positive and negative keywords and phrases, a sizable portion of both Trump and Biden’s coverage had a negative tone. In fact, three of the four most popular Trump mentions were “failed”, “lies” and “misleading”. And Biden fared worse. His top four mentions were “softball”, “misleading”, “lies” and “failed”.

Based on the media coverage, we don’t believe Trump nor Biden’s respective town halls were beneficial to either candidate. The real test will be at the first debate, which is what we’ll cover next week.  

In addition to analyzing election coverage, we will highlight presidential election focused press releases distributed by Cision PR Newswire from the past week: 

Cision is politically unaffiliated and does not endorse any political parties, platforms, campaigns or candidates.