Has Biden’s press really been more negative than positive?

Joe Biden campaigning in February 2020. Photo (cc) 2020 by stingrayschuller

The Pew Research Center has released a massive study of how the media have covered the early days of the Biden administration. I am not going to do a deep dive, but I did find a few of the key findings interesting.

First, the study found that coverage was slightly more negative than positive (32% to 23%) — but that, in a separate survey of about 12,000 adults, about 46% thought the coverage had been mostly positive and only 14% assessed it as mostly negative. Here’s how the report put it: “Americans’ sense of the early coverage about the Biden administration tends to be more positive than the tone of the content that was studied.”

There was also a marked difference in coverage between media outlets with predominantly left- and right-leaning audiences as well as among the respondents themselves based on what media they consume. Pew chose 25 news organizations to study. Vox had the most left-leaning audience whereas Sean Hannity’s radio show had the most right-leaning.

My own sense is that coverage of President Biden and his administration has, in fact, been mainly positive, and that the perception of the survey respondents is closer to the mark than Pew’s assessment of the actual coverage. And I’d suggest that Pew reconsider its list.

Every Pew-chosen outlet appealing to left-leaning audiences is either a mainstream news organization or combines reporting with opinion. On the other hand, several of the outlets selected for study that appeal to right-leaning audiences consist of pure opinion that’s often combined with misinformation — among them Fox News, Breitbart, Newsmax and Hannity’s and Mark Levin’s radio shows.

The other finding that struck me was that most stories about Biden have focused on “his ideology and policy agenda,” whereas, four years earlier, stories about the early days of Donald Trump’s presidency centered on “his character and leadership.”

Needless to say, that’s far more a reflection of the two presidents than of the media. Biden represents a return to normality, and news organizations obviously are going to spend much of their time covering a normal new president’s beliefs and policy proposals. Trump’s entire presidency was about nothing but the cult of personality he encouraged — the consequences of which will be with us for some time to come.

One thought on “Has Biden’s press really been more negative than positive?

  1. Read through a bit of it. I still don’t know if they were measuring the audience or the coverage.

    If say, coverage was negative on 100% on right-wing outlets and 25% on “mainstream” outlets, but only 10% of the people were watching the right-wing outlets, most people would not receive negative coverage, even though most of it was negative.

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