2016 Presidential Media Blackouts: Not Just Conspiracy

Published on January 12 by Ryan Whitacker

In my last post I talked about correlations between media coverage and poll numbers for Republican presidential candidates. The most common response from non-Trump supporters was a claim that their candidate is being treated unfairly by the media. Claims of biased media are nothing new:

Blaming the mainstream media is now a mainstream political tactic.

But what if there is a media bias? Luckily this is a question we can answer with data. We looked at popularity vs. mainstream media coverage by comparing poll numbers, Google searches per week, and mentions on mainstream media broadcasts.

If CNN's Chris Cuomo is correct in his challenge to Sanders, the correlation should be strong between poll numbers and media coverage. However, if you subscribe to the belief that mainstream media is covering what people are interested in, then we should see a strong correlation between Google searches and news stories. We'll find which explanation is more correct, and then compare candidates.

Our analysis shows some candidates are being ignored and some candidates are being inexplicably preferred by the mainstream media.

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Data Sources

It'll be a good idea to show where I'm getting the data from. This will also help if you want to run your own correlations on a candidate that we don't post.

Count of Stories: Archive.org

Because most candidates are claiming a “mainstream” media bias, we looked at the top television networks. Archive.org sifts through huge amounts of closed-captioning to find key phrases. The data is then compiled into the 2016 Campaign Television Tracker, which is a daily representation of the how often a candidate is mentioned. We looked at all national networks since June of 2015 when the campaign really started to heat up.

TV mentions by candidate


Search Interest: Google Trends and Google Keyword Tool

The folks on /r/datisbeautiful took me to task last time for Google Trends figures and graphs. Their criticisms were valid, because Google Trends by itself uses an arbitrary “100” as a peak for any given term. Everything else is just a percentage of the max.


This time we took that data (which is weekly) and combined it with Google's keyword data from AdWords.


If we know that December had 4,090,000 searches we can then apply the weekly Google trends number to determine (more or less) the absolute value of searches each week. This is no problem for weeks that fall in the middle of the month, but it does get tricky when a week is split in half by a month. We did the analysis by breaking it down into days and rebuilding the weeks with search volume rather than a Google Trends number.

If you want to do this analysis yourself, you must apply the search trend weekly, but the volume trend monthly. Since no daily data exists, we have to make our own. Divide the number of searches in the month by the number of days in the month. This is your “un-adjusted” daily figure, which we'll adjust by the Google Trends weekly figure. We use a multiplier (the Google Trend for that day, based on week, divided by the average of Google Trend each day in the month times the not-yet-adjusted daily searches) to build searches adjusted “by day.” The day search count is actually just an average, but it doesn't matter since we can only take the analysis up to the week level anyway. Make sure that the total number of searches in the month sums back up to total searches.

Finally we re-build the week's number of searches with an estimated number of searches rather than a number of 1 to 100. There may be an easier way to do this, but I'm fairly certain there's no way to get a more accurate number. Weeks that pass from one month to the next get a little rounded, but the resulting weekly data is far closer to absolute searches by week and the search count far more useful.

Poll Figures: RealClearPolitics.com

There are lots of poll numbers, but RCP's poll section does a great job collecting and averaging them. I'd prefer a Nate Silver kind of number, but this is the best we can get going back in history. Note that I pulled these numbers from the graph for the middle of the week where current polls were averaged.


We ran this analysis for Clinton, Sanders, O'Malley, Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Carson, and Paul. Across these candidates there was a correlation between both poll numbers (25%) and search interest (84%), but the correlation was far stronger with search volume, and stronger for every candidate. The fact that polls don't predict coverage isn't surprising. Leading in the polls isn't necessarily news unless that lead is recent. In that respect we disagree with Chris Cuomo: news coverage has more to do with how many people are interested in the topic than with poll figures.

Why the media covers candidates

In essence:

The news isn't there to tell you what happened. It's there to tell you what it wants you to hear or what it thinks you want to hear.

-Joss Whedon

You can see the news-to-Google searches correlation in action when you look at individual candidates. The graphs below show the number of people looking for a candidate's exact name on the red line and right axis. The number of national TV mentions is on the black line and left axis. Note that the numbers of searches are for the candidate's name only. There are more searches (that generally follow the same trend) for all types of modified search terms.

Do not be fooled by the relative height of each line. They're measuring different things, and the axis max can make one line look smaller or bigger on a whim. Pay attention primarily to the trend they follow.

Donald Trump

Trump mainstream media coverage


Trump is the most-searched-for candidate in 2016, and so far he's also the most covered. In fact, he's been covered in the mainstream news about twice as many times as the next-closest candidate: Hillary Clinton.

Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz media mentions vs. search interest

Marco Rubio

Marco Rubio media mentions vs. search interest

Ben Carson

Ben Carson media mentions vs. search interest

Rand Paul

 Rand Paul media mentions vs. search interest

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders media mentions vs. search interest

Martin O'Malley

Martin O'Malley


The only reason we've included the relative historical trends and correlations above is so that you can see that we are measuring something strongly correlated and re-validated by every candidate. These trends indicate an interaction that is obvious (more searches = more coverage, more coverage = more searches), but we needed to demonstrate the validity of the numbers for what comes next. Things get really interesting when you compare the raw numbers side-by-side.

Candidate Google Searches


Mainstream Press Mentions


Clinton                                         9,235,231                                            87,737
Sanders                                      21,536,032                                            29,525
O'Malley                                         1,158,270                                               3,996
Trump                                      37,046,010                                           183,903
Cruz                                         5,373,797                                            14,465
Rubio                                         4,428,465                                            26,463
Carson                                         8,728,769                                            33,794
Paul                                         3,258,219                                               6,566

In theory these two numbers would be proportional to some extent, at least within a party. Whether the news causes people to be interested or people's interest causes more news stories (or both) we should see roughly the same ratio. That idea is even further reinforced by the strong correlations seen above. Here's the problem, though: candidates don't get proportional coverage based on who is interested.

Media mentions vs popularity

Holy crap. When I first had this idea I thought I might kill some conspiracy theories about the media. What we found is strong evidence of media bias.

  • Our analysis shows Bernie Sanders is being ignored by the mainstream media to a shocking degree. If covered at the average rate we'd have seen about 61,500 more stories including Sanders in the last 6 months: 91,094 mentions instead of 29,525.
  • Clinton receives a high amount of coverage, despite no dramatic changes in polls and lower search interest.
  • Candidates like Rand Paul also appear to be locked out of the mainstream press. Paul isn't the most popular candidate, but if the average held he'd have been in twice as many stories. Rubio, despite being 36% more popular than Paul was 403% more likely to be covered by the news.

Again, the poll numbers don't explain the difference in coverage: Clinton's poll-to-media-mention correlation, for example, is actually negative 48%. That means that news coverage goes up a little when her poll numbers drop. Sanders, on the other hand, sees no large benefit when his poll numbers rise (correlation = 11%).

For both Clinton and Sanders there's a strong correlation between online search interest and news coverage: 90% and 77% respectively. All that means is that the lines in the graphs above follow the same trend. Search interest goes up, and so do the number of TV mentions. If Sanders received the same volume of mainstream press coverage that Clinton did based on search popularity the correlation could remain unchanged. The line for “national news mentions” would have the same ups and downs, but it would be 10 times higher across the board.

Remember that correlation and causality are two different things. It's unclear whether news coverage causes interest or whether interest creates incentive to cover; the truth is that both causes are partly true. What we can say is some candidates receive far more coverage than is justified by either poll figures or search interest.

Ryan Whitacker is one of DecisionData’s founders. Ryan is a data freak, news junkie, and open data fanatic. He’s worked for political organizations and nonprofits as a data analyst, developer, and consultant.

Please feel free to contact us to obtain the data. We'd love to see someone do a per-channel analysis using our method. This may lead to further proof of bias or at least explain the discrepancy.

77 thoughts on “2016 Presidential Media Blackouts: Not Just Conspiracy

  • Interesting information that offers up a bit of evidence to what many people have suspected for a while. I too would like to see a per-channel analysis; might as well hold the worst offenders accountable by abstaining from viewing their broadcasts until they at least make some attempt at objectivity. Is it possible to repeat this with online only sources?

    • Good question about online news sources. I tried to do it with Google News story counts (you can see the story count in a date range if you view the page source), but the numbers on Google News fluctuate heavily by hour and day, so the count of stories has more to do with Google’s free processing power than anything. I’m open to suggestions, though!

      I’ve had a couple journalists ask for data and guidance, so hopefully someone comes up with a good answer on which networks are more biased.

      • Having a data source that is dominated by a known (or at least estimable) large time-varying bias (Google news story counts maybe) could be a good thing. You might just need to figure out how to automate data collection so that you can sufficiently populate the histograms.

    • Thank you for the research. I would also like to inform people that I had an unpleasant shock when I tried to donate to the Bernie Sanders campaign, and both my credit cards were denied. They have never been before. I’m beginning to wonder if Hillary Clinton pays hackers to make it impossible for Bernie to get donations. People probably just think it’s a computer bug and give up.

      • This is both shocking and disturbing. I have not had any trouble donating, but have done so through Act Blue rather than directly.

  • I wonder what the delta is for positive versus negative Google searches. So, in other words, when someone who disapproves of Trump googles him to write a scathing review of a Republican debate, or googles his photo to photoshop something lewd into it…that counts as a Google search. I don’t know if discerning the good from the bad matters though, buzz is buzz.

  • I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and speculate that It is quite possible that the population that uses google to search a candidate may have an age distribution significantly younger than the cohort that watch cable television and that presumably represent the television network’s target demographic.

    • bingo. sanders and paul both skew younger, so are over-represented in searches and under-represented on tv news.

      • Yet Trump received nearly twice as many Google searches than Sanders over the same period, but his support is largely among middle-age and older people.

        This isn’t the 90s or early 00s anymore. Just about every age group, except perhaps 65+, Googles stuff now.

        • I despise Trump. I’m curious to know what he is doing however and I’ve googled him way more than any of the other candidates combined. I think since he is such a polarizing candidate he has received a significant percentage of his Google searches from folks who share my negative thoughts on him.

        • I despise Trump. I’ve googled him way more than any other candidate combined however. I believe since he is such an outspoken and polarizing figure, a significant percentage of his Google searches are from people with negative views toward him.

        • This is because trump is a controversial runner. He is always bullying his way around and making fun of other candidates, he is hilarious in a dark way.

        • Trump is always bullying his way around and making fun of everyone. His controversial comments make it to the news and people google it to see the video or photo. He dominates the spotlight.

        • Very interesting. And I agree with many posts here. I am one of the “over 65’s” (75) and do more than my share of googling things, this is the information age. I googled “why is the media/press ignoring Bernie Sanders to get here. Because I wanted to know. I have been intently following Bernie, like an above poster, absolutely despise Trump, and absolutely amazed that he lasted even a few months. He is in real estate and I have never met a single honest real estate agent. I went to a real estate school to get a real estate license and EVERY SINGLE PERSON IN THE CLASS were vultures seeking fast bucks and ways to take advantage of people. Trump is the same. He is a salesman and he is selling the hell out of Trump to the chumps. It is Bernie’s ideas which I am voting for to leave for my children.

        • Yes, But every so often someone will google(vt) Trump for entertainment value, in fear, or for opposition research, ect.

          Additionally, many are accessing multiple media resources, often at the same time. How many folks do you suppose hear something surprising or even almost unbelievable about a candidate covered briefly and superficially on one of the infotainment networks like CBS NBC ABC FOX etc., and then want to follow up in depth or perform a fact check.

          Finding details on recent broadcast media mentions, is often as easy as querying the candidates name and a visual sieve of the top google results.

          Internet adoption by certain older populations might be low, however, as ~50 year old engineer, I did not know too many people who do not have some access to the internet, and many individuals have a spectrum of communication devices and methodologies available at various times of the day. Unfortunate not all people are able to configure the browser and search engine to return unbubbled results. To avoid corporate astroturf and separating the internet chaff from the grains of truth is a continuous challenge for even for experienced internet users.

          A few weeks ago, at the international customs arrival section of O Hare, I watched the response of an international group of people who were waiting for their loved ones. The Donald, large and obnoxious, was being featured on some mainstream news program. His big colorful head filled the 64 inch LCD display and he was belligerently elaborating his hateful attitude towards people who look or act a bit different from himself. This captive international audience was paying some attention to what he was saying, and I was embarrassed for my country. The message that was being delivered did not deserve the air time. Coverage of this type of unopposed hateful right wing rhetoric does not seem like liberal media bias to me. It seems like the type of media bias proposed by this fine article.

          There are many confounding factors in the data that might need to be controlled for, but I agree strongly with the premise that Bernie has not been given a fair shake by the broadcast media.

          The media oligarchs believe that they have something to loose if President Sanders sits in the Executive office. Of course they are wrong, as if he does there will be plenty of news to report, and the wealthy will make beaucoup bucks even at much higher tax rates (perhaps just not the lions share of profits they get now).

          The wealthy have grow particularly ungrateful for what the country (and its workers) have done for them. Meanwhile, the U.S. GINI index grows by leaps and bounds. No wonder so many have left the workforce. Who is happy to work for a man that values himself so much as to pay himself 300 times what you make, while you go into debt to put your child thru community college or pay for braces. The money sickness extends to federal legislature especially the esteemed house of representin (the we got ours so f-u congress). Visceral partisanship in the Roberts court is evident, and the court has been granting the wishes of corporate America for years. Then there is ALEX, the consequences of which Wisconsin is now suffering. A whole slew of disinformation web sites funded by the Koch empire, Exxon/Mobile, big agricultural interests, which astroturf the web and educate the gullible. And if this is not enough to drive a citizen out of the political process, we have voter ID, H1B visas, Right to Work, but no right for workers to negotiate with billion dollar international company (except individually). It is just a never ending assault by big business against its own workers, the U.S. government, (and its long term interests) in order to avoid paying fair wages and their share of the taxes in the United States. There are plenty of groups using money to create an uneven playing field for U.S. workers, but it will backfire, because workers without money cannot afford a new car, or to pay their medical bills, or even their rent. And now the Birther-in-Chief may soon to be in charge of hydrogen bombs.

          With so many negative reasons to google the name of a candidate I am not surprised at Donald’s standing in google search frequency, but I am flabbergasted at how often I see the loud mouthed, self interested, reality TV clown on supposedly serious network and cable TV news sites.

          Also, in Wisconsin, one whole political party has been rendered moot by gerrymandering, so there are plenty of people in power also using big data and computers to create a very slanted political playing field.

          To go into the business of writing software which cheats voters out of fair representation, I bet there is some good money in that. But alas, money does not motivate everyone, and ethically I am just not down for it.

          It was a good through provoking article with an interesting premise followed by civil discussion. I like this site.

  • What can ordinary people do about this? Obviously media members aren’t behaving ethically, but is there a law they’re breaking by influencing the election this way?

  • Though the correlation is certainly alarming, I might suggest that you’re missing a couple of confounding factors here. There’s generally no need to Google a candidate of whom you’ve already heard – we’ve had years and years to know about Clinton and what she might stand for, but not so much the case with Bernie Sanders, who is perhaps a new figure to many voters – Clinton may also be being mentioned in the press for reasons outside her campaign bid (i.e. the Benghazi issue). Furthermore there’s an age issue – the high number of people searching for Sanders on Google is thoroughly unsurprising given the demographic amongst whom he’s most popular (namely young people) are the ones using the internet for their information (and I would not be surprised if it is the same demographic driving the Trump numbers!). Perhaps some candidates receive more press coverage since voters who are gaining their information from the press tend to care more about those candidates in particular.

    • Using your same logic, why would you need to dedicate more news stories to a person who people already know? If the goal of news is to inform, then shouldn’t they be highlighting the person that people don’t know about? And even if the news is just trying to show stories that people are interested in, then the person who is being searched more should by extension also be featured more.

    • True, age groups may be a factor. But biasing coverage based on an age group is still media bias, is it not? When we’re talking about a presidential campaign both candidates are (in theory) relevant to the discussion.

      • But what about his first point? “There’s generally no need to Google a candidate of whom you’ve already heard.”

        This is all fascinating by the way, thanks for digging this up and visualizing/analyzing it for the world. It’d be really interesting and maybe a way to get further into this (assuming Google Searches are telling of “interest”) would be to do a similar analysis of Facebook/Twitter posts and shares. Equally, to run a sentiment analysis of the text of media articles to determine if they are largely positive or negative in sentiment.

        So awesome!

        • I google Bernie or Bernie Sanders (same results) usually daily to find out what is happening because I cannot find out from the press or TV, I have to google to find current news. Even today, where he just took Alaska, Washington and Hawaii by a margin of over 60% in each, I still had to google to find out the results.

          And I am not the only one who has to resort to the internet to find out.

    • I don’t believe your assessment regarding “young people” and Senator Sanders is correct. He has a very large part of his support coming from seniors. In this day & age there are few who vote that do not use the internet. Sounds like you’re trying to make it sound as if Sanders supporters are just a bunch of punk kids who don’t know anything much. Really? Look again.

      • Obviously Sanders has some older supporters, but he absolutely dominates among younger voters. This is both undeniable and nothing to be ashamed of. Despite being close to tied in national polls, he’s polling at a staggering 76% among people under 30, while Hillary leads with those over 45.

        And it’s not surprising, either. While everyone may use the internet nowadays, younger people get a lot more of their news via word of mouth over social networks. Sanders quotes have been spreading around Facebook for a few years now, so people using it regularly knew who he was long before he was running for president.

        Younger people have also been hit the hardest by the economic problems that Sanders focuses on. When he talks about the vanishing middle class, the under-30 crowd understands, because there are very few young people who are anywhere close to being middle class. It’s not so much that many people used to be middle class but have fallen into poverty (though some do). It’s that middle class people grow old and die, and are replaced by a younger, poorer generation that’s struggling to make ends meet.

        I think this is why a lot of older people just don’t see what’s wrong with the status quo, so they support the candidate who most embodies it. After all, they’re still doing ok, and anyone who threatens to rock the boat is seen as a risk. Young people, currently struggling, are more likely to see Sanders’ ideology as a ray of hope, because they don’t really have much to lose right now.

  • I suspect one of the reasons is the ratings each candidate generates or they think they’ll generate based on past history and what they said/did. Hillary likely gets Democrats supporters watching and Republican’s hate watching her coverage. Trump is likely getting the same reaction with the party supporters roles switched. Both have had a lot of TV time over the past 20-30 years. People know who they are.

    Hillary did as First Lady, New York Senator, 2008 Democratic Primary Candidate and The Secretary of State. Trump had his TV show and was a well known celebrity due to his real estate holdings, casinos, not to mention his occasional involvement in WWE Pro Wrestling story lines. His marriages and divorces to models used to be front page tabloid stories as well as his successes and failures in business.

    While Sanders been in politics for a long time he hasn’t that level of media coverage. While I like him, he’s been a bit of broken record as of late saying the same thing every time he’s on camera. I imagine he’s not getting the ratings as Clinton and Trump are. Mainstream corporate media is looking to maximize it’s profits, so they’ll going to cover whomever is getting the higher ratings.

    If you have access to the ratings and add it to the data mix, it might explain the bias.

    • “Mainstream corporate media is looking to maximize it’s profits, so they’ll going to cover whomever is getting the higher ratings”

      –and as the data seems to indicate, NOT cover a candidate that may challenge their profitability. Sanders has not been shy about criticizing the canonization of corporate profits over the welfare of the populace.

  • What is do think this shows, is the massive correlation between engagement per user, and media mentions. Bernie Sanders has far and away the largest concurrent searches after media mentions. He has the largest number of people engaged after they have seen him speak, which should be the main take away from this article – He is engaging people to actively search, read, and engage with material about the man, after they have seen him talk, after they have seen Media of him.

    Engagement in apps and youtube celebs amongst other data, is how we judge whether or not something has succeeded as a brand or as a person.

    Bernie Sanders brand is absolutely engaging, and absolutely leading in terms of it’s return on investment for Media Coverage, over all other candidates by far.

    If you want to understand how I came to this conclusion, look at the gap between the red and black bards, the bigger the gap, the higher the engagement.

    • No no, I specifically pointed out that people should not look at the height of the line graphs. I could mess with the graphs just by changing the “max” on the axis. It’s the ratio that matters. I was just trying to show that the two lines follow one another.

      That said, your explanation of the discrepancy in ratio is valid. I’d be surprised if it’s the only explanation or even one of the top five reasons, but it does make logical sense.

  • I haven’t looked at the data but I believe a big problem with your conclusion is that you assume there’s a casual relationship between Media Mentions and Google Search Volume.

    The way voters get their information isn’t from just network TV and Google. Many find them through social media, blogs, and online outlets.

    In this case, the correlation you show still makes sense. However, demographics matter. Bernie supporters are younger and more likely to go online and not watch Cable TV News than Hillary supporters.

    That may begin to explain the media “blackout.”

  • For me the reasoning that “media wants to make profit” would somehow explain the differences doesn’t seem to be valid at all. For example it would be really easy to make even “click-bait” level news about Sander’s views in many areas – they are that different from at least most of the candidates. Who really thinks that people read more likely “Hillary did this again” or “Hillary’s challenger’s extreme views on..”? Where are all the comparisons? Honestly, where are all the comparisons and analysis of what would selecting any candidate over some other maybe mean for the future of the country?

  • I see it all the time when the media misleads the public even Fox has been doing this with Dr. Ben Carson. Not naming him within the Rep. runners but count the lower ones in the polls. Also making comments as if he is done for .. never going to be nominated… BUT something is fishy as Carson has brought in more money in small donations.. meaning he has a large fan base than any one else.. I Think the Media IS afraid if Carson runs against Hillery he will win and the left does not want that to happen so they keep him down… If Trump runs he or Hillery will all their money are some how in cahoots, with each other….

  • There are many confounding factors your analysis does not control for, and I would think you’d be a bit more cautious about making causal claims from correlational data. Measuring mentions but not the context of the mentions? Clinton is in the news far more often simply by virtue of being mentioned more by other candidates, and for non-campaign stories.

    Accusations of media bias are common among those who care deeply about an issue. In fact, people on either side of an issue will both see bias against their side in the exact same story. I encourage you to look up the Hostile Media Effect, and to be more rigorous in drawing conclusions from data.

  • has anyone considered that the tv media might also run more stories on one candidate BECAUSE the other is doing slightly better and gaining so that they can continue to create a race? and that what might be true in one race (democrats), might not be true in another (republican) where there really is a race? can’t the data be explained differently based on very different human motivations?

  • Fascinating analysis. I’m also wondering whether much of the gap in coverage is because Clinton’s supporters skew older and are more likely to be consumers of cable TV news, whereas Bernie supporters skew younger and are more likely to be posting stuff on the internet. I watched cable news continuously in my younger years, but now get almost all my news from online source, and only watch TV news occasionally when in airports and hotels. I’m always struck by the fact that a large portion of the commercials are targeted towards old people – Medicare Advantage plans, golf, Viagra, hearing aids, etc… I didn’t know this close-captioning data source was available – it’d be really interesting to compare cable vs. internet coverage within each network. Does the online coverage skew more towards Bernie compared to the cable TV coverage?

    • That’s been the big question: is it just a matter of demographics of who watches news vs. who uses Google? Age probably has something to do with it. But an age-based bias is still a bias, right? I am using the word “bias” in a more statistical sense. It’s clearly statistically biased, but that doesn’t mean intentionally unfair.

      I did another analysis recently, the results of which I’ll share in the next day or so. It might shed some more light on the issue.

  • Um, is it really a surprise to anyone that google searches for an unknown candidate would spike? Look at Sanders’ graph. There are two prominent spikes. One around the time when he first entered the race that shows an understandable lack of corresponding media attention because asking “who the hell is this guy” is not really newsworthy and then a few months later the same spike only that time a corresponding media spike because the new guy didn’t just go away like most new guys do. In other words, media threshhold breached.

    Conversely, Hillary has been in the direct white-hot spotlights for over twenty years as First Lady to a controversial and popular (and hatred by the right) two-term President and then controversial “carpetbagger” New York Senator and then Presidential candidate in a “first ever” tight race and then Secretary of State etc., etc., etc. The very mention of her name has been front page news for two decades, so, yeah, she’s earned her position whereas Bernie Sanders is a mouse that’s been squeaking the same socialist rhetoric largely in anonymity for twenty years and its only thanks to the “Occupy Wall Street” that Adbusters created as a PR stunt that the mouse had a chance to roar.

    Weird and shiny is what google searches are all about, but NOT what news should be about (though thanks to Faux News proving it’s profitable, that era is sadly dying). So, no, your analysis is transparently flawed. Particularly since it does not account for the social media “wars” that the Sanders supporters have been waging (thanks in no small part to the Revolution Messaging firm Sanders hired after they cut their teeth on Obama’s campaign). I personally accounted for hundreds of Sanders google searches just in trying to research all of the nonsense I saw in my Facebook feed (and then hundreds more searching for counter-arguments). “Area Man Obsessively Searching Sanders To Argue Facebook Politics” however does not translate into national news.

  • I think claiming media bias is way different than claiming “media blackout.” It makes sense to me that news stations would consider a person with such name recognition and established voter base like Hillary Clinton more newsworthy and would talk about her more than a relatively unknown insurgent candidate.

  • I find it interesting that the DNC social media pages are overwhelmingly estrogen heavy – and I’m a woman. For example, on the IG page there’s a post from almost 2 months ago that is captioned “We don’t run the world. Yet. ” referring to the Beyoncé song about how girls run the world. How is this not biased? Blatantly posting this crap? The entire page is nearly all female features and cries of woman power. I’m so disgusted. How bout a story on that?

  • You are right that Bernie is googled far more often than Hillary, but I not sure what that says about a media ‘blackout.’ If you just look at each candidate’s mentions on the major networks over the past 180 days, you’ll see Bernie started with little coverage, but has nearly reached parity with Hillary since January. Maybe I am wrong, but I don’t see much media bias.


  • First, to the many who commented above, one should remember that the data is describing correlation not causal effects. As many have also noted, the “mentions” were not specified as positive or negative in connotation either in mainstream or digital context.

    Second, to say that a well-known candidate received more cable (mainstream) mention due to being more well-known is rather like saying that grass is green because green is the color of grass. Exactly. Chlorophyll aside. And the green in this case is money. For entertainment not news and for promoting the corporate sponsors agenda.

    Third, bias could be postulated when taking parts of the whole. Out of 121,308 mentions (the whole) for the three Democratic candidates, the percentages (parts) are: Clinton = 72.4%, Sanders = 24.3% O’Malley = 3.3%
    For the last three names still in the (whole 301,165) process? Trump= 61.1% Clinton = 29,1% Sanders = 9.8 %

    Fourth, use digital media sources to avoid the cloying and biased corporate mainstream media. Just scroll past the various Trolls and Hillbots (like stepping over refuse/garbage) to then connect with others of your intellectual community. (I never go to other candidates sites, so why do they come to mine?)

    I am a Sanders supporter. I have given up searching through the intellectual wasteland of CNN, Fox, and MSNBC for “news” of my candidate because there is nothing new they are telling me. Since June, he a) has no chance of winning, b) remains behind in the superdelegate counts, and c) only needs to speak when he is willing to turn his supporters (and their fund-raising emails) over to the other Democratic candidate.

    I, therefore, use social media and web-based news sources when looking anything that might be new and relevant. And–although I am 61–I know how to use my Favorites to bookmark TYT, Democracy Now, Redacted Tonight, Moyers & Company, and Humanist Report.

  • Of course it’s biased. All the media networks do it. It’s the way they do it that concerns me. Many big name news show hosts use language that is absolutely unwarrented from a “news outlet”. Calling candidates stupid, traitor, ugly, morons, and even A-holes, among other verbs to undermine that candidates positions or personal attributes. The biggest abuser has been MSNBC. To their credit some of these hosts were moved to time slots that are less watched by the average American viewer and most especially the youth audience.

  • First – can you explain to us exactly why there should be a correlation between mainstream media coverage and google searches? That seems to be an awfully large conclusion to leap to without explaining how you come to that conclusion. Wouldn’t you first have to define what you mean by mainstream media coverage and then show that the searches were the result of the mainstream media coverage and not a result of the news cycle itself where some stories will be covered by all media sources at the same time?

    Second – can you break out how many of those mainstream media mentions were positive versus negative? For the period of time, Clinton had 87,737 media mentions and Sanders had 29,525. To make a claim based on those numbers only that there is a mainstream media bias against Sanders is rather suspect without knowing how many of those media mentions for Sanders were positive and how many for Clinton were positive.

    How many of those 87,737 mainstream media stories about Hillary were negative stories about Benghazi or about her e-mails? How many of those 29,525 mainstream media stories about Bernie were negative? It’s not the total number of mentions that should be used to determine media bias, it’s the total number of positive stories and the total number of negative stories that should be used to determine that bias. If it turns out that the number of positive stories about Hillary are closer to the number of positive stories about Bernie, then it might be said that the media bias is against Hillary and not Bernie.

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