Pew: Media coverage of Trump through first 60 days vastly more negative than last three presidents

A fine companion piece to the factoid Bob Schieffer dropped yesterday on “Face the Nation,” that one out of every five reporters in the U.S. now lives in either New York, Washington, or Los Angeles. In 2004, claims Schieffer, it was one out of every eight reporters. The bubble’s getting thicker.

Pew took a look at major media sources, both mainstream and those on the left and right, to gauge the tone of the coverage through Trump’s first 60 days in office. Was it more or less in line with what Clinton, Dubya, and Obama had received or was it far more negative, as Trump’s fans are forever insisting?

Verdict: Oh yeah. Way, waaaaay more negative. Bigly.

Even Bill Clinton, whose first year was famously rocky, did no worse than 28 percent negativity during his first 60 days. Trump? Sixty-two percent. Just five percent of the coverage was positive. And it’s not a case of overwhelmingly negative coverage on one subject drowning out some moderately positive coverage on other matters. It was resoundingly negative across the board:

The obvious counterpoint is that Trump’s first 60 days had an unusual amount of bad news in them so of course the coverage would be negative to match. He rolled out the travel ban in late January without much of a heads up to John Kelly or James Mattis; he watched the House GOP introduce a fantastically unpopular health-care bill and fail to pass it; his national security advisor resigned over discussions he’d had with the Russian ambassador about sanctions; and Trump himself did what Trump tends to do, popping off on Twitter about Obama wiretapping his phones, assuring congressional leaders that he actually won the popular vote, and so on.

Still, the first 60 days were also when Trump delivered his well-received address to Congress, and it was a period in which various well-regarded cabinet members were nominated and/or confirmed. He nominated the eminently qualified and amiable Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court just 10 days into his term. Still: 5/62 on the coverage. Even allowing for the fact that there’s more overtly partisan media now than there was when Obama took office, let alone Bush or Clinton, some of the media outlets and programs tracked by Pew for this survey include *overwhelmingly* pro-Trump entities like Breitbart, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Tucker Carlson. Exclude them from the data and what’s the split on positive and negative coverage overall? 1/62? 0/62?

Also, if most of the negative coverage stemmed from reactions to Trump policy failures, like health care and the botched implementation of the travel ban, how to explain this?

With Clinton, the focus was on policy. With Bush, policy. With Obama, an even split — perhaps to be expected given his historic role as the first black president and how Americans would react to that. With Trump? It’s about leadership and character by a more than two-to-one ratio, not immigration or health care.

Again, the obvious counterpoint is that leadership and character are a perpetual elephant in the room with Trump and therefore the coverage should logically track that. When you elect a guy whose deep thoughts about “p***y-grabbing” were preserved forever on the “Access Hollywood” tape, who’s known for Twitter-farting whatever grievance happens to be bugging him at any given moment, who seems invested to a degree unusual even for politicians in his own image and perceptions of his “strength,” you’re going to end up with more stories about the presidential persona than you would if, say, Ted Cruz were president. Even so, Trump was dealing with Big Stuff early on after being sworn in — overturning ObamaCare, filling a SCOTUS vacancy, and feeling his way towards a nationalist foreign policy that had the potential to break with decades of American fo-po consensus. Notwithstanding his essential Trumpiness, 69/31 seems out of whack. Go figure.

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David Strom 12:01 PM on October 07, 2022