Media coverage of President Donald Trump is nothing if not consistent. A study released Tuesday by the Media Research Center (MRC) shows stories aired on the Big Three network newscasts during the first four months of the year were 91 percent negative toward the president.
That is about the rate that the networks have maintained throughout Trump’s presidency. Rich Noyes, director of research for the media watchdog group, told LifeZette that Trump averaged 90 percent negative coverage in 2017.
Noyes said similar studies he performed on for the Center for Media and Public Affairs on the presidencies of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton found that coverage would ebb and flow, based on events.
“They never got 90 percent negative coverage all the time,” he said. “It’s remarkably heavy coverage [of Trump] and overwhelmingly negative … In my career, this has never happened.”
The MRC analyzed the evening news on ABC, CBS and NBC from January 1 through April 30, and excluded statements by partisans — such as members of Congress — on both sides. The study analyzed only statements by independent sources and by the reporters and anchors involved.
Of 1,601 statements that were either explicitly positive or negative, only 9 percent were positive.
Nearly 40 percent of the coverage focused on Trump’s scandals and controversies, according to the study. Just 45 percent focused on policy.
By far, stories dealing with possible but unproven allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian interests during the 2016 campaign got the most attention. Those stories consumed a combined 321 minutes of airtime — nearly a fifth of all Trump administration coverage. Coverage of porn star Stormy Daniels and sex-related stories involving other women took up another 92 minutes.
The only subset over coverage where Trump drew mostly positive comments was the 51 minutes devoted to job growth, tax reform, deregulation and plans for more infrastructure spending. Trump got 73 percent positive coverage during those 51 minutes, but they made up less than 3 percent of the president’s overall coverage.
|Coverage of Trump in 2018|
Source: The Media Research Center
Almost every other topic drew overwhelmingly negative coverage of Trump. Even on North Korea, where many Democrats have offered grudging praise, the study found that 68 percent of the 111 minutes was negative.
Noyes said part of the negative coverage can be attributed to scandals that have surrounded Trump and his combative approach to the media and public discourse. But Noyes said there is an extraordinary lack of balance in stories about government policy, as well. Pro-Trump sources often do not appear in stories, he added.
“There’s almost no external validation for what he does,” he said.
Noyes said much of the media have abandoned even the goal of objectivity in the Trump era. The New York Times even ran a piece during the 2016 campaign titled, “Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism.”
Noyes said the mentality carried over to Trump’s presidency.
“It’s sort of a lack of faith in their own rules,” he said.
Noting that Trump’s approval rating has risen amid the negative coverage, however, Noyes speculated that people are responding to their own experience with tax cuts or other factors outside of news coverage.
“More and more, people seem to be dismissing news coverage,” he said.