News Outlets’ Assessment of Trump Depends on Audience

(CN) – News stories from outlets with a politically right-leaning audience are five times more likely to have a positive assessment of the Trump administration than stories from publications with a left-leaning or mixed audience, according to a Pew Research Center report released Monday.

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday Sept. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Pew researchers analyzed more than 3,000 news stories from the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency to determine what impact differences in media choices can have on the news Americans receive, in an era where people often turn to news outlets that they perceive to lean toward supporting their political views.

The researchers found that news outlets’ coverage is generally framed around character and leadership rather than policy, and that Americans tend to hear about a similar mix of topics from the media, regardless of the political makeup of an outlet’s audience.

However, they found that assessments of the Trump administration’s words and actions differed significantly from outlet to outlet depending on its audience.

“During the first 100 days of the Trump presidency, the tenor of the assessments of the president and his administration’s words and actions differed markedly in outlets with a right-leaning audience compared with the other two groups,” the Pew report states.

Researchers analyzed stories from 24 web, radio and television news outlets whose audiences lean to the left politically, outlets whose audiences lean to the right politically, and outlets that appeal to a more mixed audience. The stories assessed were at least 50 percent about the president and his administration.

More than half of stories from outlets with a left-leaning audience had a negative evaluation of the president and his administration, compared to 14 percent of stories from outlets with a right-of-center audience.

One example of a negative assessment cited by Pew researchers was a quote by a protester included in a Los Angeles Times story about a demonstration against the president and his policies in Mexico City.

“We are not against the American people,” the demonstrator said. “This is about Trump, who is spreading hate and division.”

The research also found that stories from outlets with a left-leaning audience or a more mixed audience included a wider variety of voices.

Outlets with a right-leaning audience included fewer types of sources in their reporting, and were also significantly less likely than other outlets to include Trump or his administration as sources.

Seventy percent of stories from outlets with a left-leaning audience included at least two types of sources, while less than half (44 percent) of stories from outlets appealing to a right-wing audience included such a variety of voices.

Fifty-five percent of the stories from outlets with right-leaning audiences cited Trump or a member of his administration as sources, while 78 percent of stories from outlets with left-leaning audiences did.

Less than 2 percent of the stories from outlets with right-leaning audiences included direct refutations of a statement by President Trump or his administration, compared to 15 percent of stories from outlets with left-leaning audiences.

The Pew report cites one example of such a refutation, which appeared in a review of President Trump’s first address to a joint session of Congress published by online news site Business Insider.

“Saying he inherited many problems domestically and overseas, Trump began to outline what he believed needed to be addressed,” the article states. “First, were the 94 million people out of the labor force — a misleading statistic, considering it encompasses retirees, students, and stay-at-home parents.”

Compared with past administrations, coverage of Trump’s early days in office focused less on policy and was more negative, according to the Pew report.

During the first 60 days of Trump’s administration, only 5 percent of news stories relating to his work were positive, while 62 percent of the stories had negative assessments of the president.

In comparison, during the first three months of former President Barack Obama’s administration in 2009, 42 percent of the news stories about him and his government were positive.

Former President George W. Bush was also assessed more positively by the media. While only 28 percent of the news stories about him and his administration were positive, only 22 percent of the stories were negative.

The Pew study found that, compared to previous administrations, coverage of Trump’s early days in office were more focused on his character and leadership than his policy agenda.

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