Here’s a line from a just-published Pew Research Center study on voter attitudes toward the 2016 presidential election: “Most Trump voters say press was ‘too tough’ on Trump [74 percent], ‘too easy’ on Clinton [78 percent].”
Just where did those Donald Trump voters get that notion?
As for Hillary Clinton voters, 49 percent of them found that Trump coverage was “too easy,” and 37 percent of them found that Clinton coverage was “too tough.”
The dynamics behind these numbers are well-known. Trump himself spent the entire election railing against the media, in all likelihood because it was an issue with which he had at least a nodding familiarity. It also played upon existing research showing that the American public dislike and distrust the media. The sentiment is particularly pronounced among Republicans; according to 2016 Gallup numbers, 14 percent of Republicans have a fair amount/great deal of trust in the media, as opposed to 51 percent of Democrats. So in his anti-media vituperation on Twitter and elsewhere, Trump was working with a receptive audience.
So what’s the reality? That’s almost impossible to determine, given the near impossibility of defining coverage in the sprawling U.S. “media,” much less grading it all in a neutral manner. As we’ve noted before, one firm — mediaQuant — that assesses coverage found during the primary months that Trump was enjoying more favorable coverage than Clinton. The last batch of numbers from mediaQuant placed Clinton coverage 79 percent neutral, 11 percent positive and 11 percent negative. For Trump, it was 15 percent positive, 62 percent neutral and 23 percent negative.
Opinions on those numbers may, and do, vary.