“The network newscasts are wildly overplaying Trump, who regularly attracts between 20-30 percent of primary voter support, while at the same time wildly underplaying Sanders, who regularly attracts between 20-30 percent of primary voter support,” observed Media Matters’s Eric Boehlert in a report using data from media analystAndrew Tyndall.
“Obviously, Trump is the GOP front runner and it’s reasonable that he would get more attention than Sanders, who’s running second for the Democrats. But 234 total network minutes for Trump compared to just 10 network minutes for Sanders, as the Tyndall Report found?”
Trump and Sanders are dramatically different contenders offering polar opposite proposals for the United States. Yet each has attracted a passionate following. And that has translated into similar levels of support.
On the Republican side, the Real Clear Politics poll averages have Trump attracting 30.4 percent support nationally among voters who might reasonably be expected to participate in Republican primaries and caucuses. On the Democratic side, the RCP poll averages have Clinton leading. But Sanders is attracting 31 percent support in the Democratic race—a better number than Trump.
According to RCP, Trump has a polling average of 25 percent in the first-caucus state of Iowa. RCP has Sanders at 37 percent in Iowa—10 points better than Trump.
Bernie Sanders attracts more support than Donald Trump, but gets dramatically less coverage.
But polls do provide a measure of perspective. And not just polls of the Republican and Democratic nomination contests. How about polls of potential November match-ups with Trump? Most of the match-up polls pit Clinton against Trump, and she is ahead; RCP’s average has her at 47 percent to 43.7 for the billionaire.
There are some polls that imagine a Sanders-Trump race, however. And the most recent of these, from Quinnipiac University, has Sanders leading Trump by 9 points—with the Democrat at 49 and the Republican at 40. (In the same survey, Clinton beats Trump by 7 points.)
Surveys from a number of battleground states show Sanders swamping Trump. In Wisconsin, for instance, the latest Marquette Law School poll has Sanders beating Trump 52-35, while Clinton beats Trump 48-38.
There is no need to suggest, or expect, an even balance in media coverage. That’s not how it works. But serious media coverage can keep Trump—and the 2016 race—in perspective. As Sanders’s campaign manager Jeff Weaver says,
“The corporately-owned media may not like Bernie’s anti-establishment views but for the sake of American democracy they must allow for a fair debate in this presidential campaign.” Right now, that’s not what Americans are getting from the network news.
* Trump has received more network coverage than all the Democratic candidates combined.
* Trump has accounted for 27 percent of all campaign coverage this year.
Trump should be covered. But so, too, should other candidates on the Republican and Democratic sides. There’s no need to dial down coverage of anyone. But there is a need to dial up coverage of candidates who are not Trump and who are not preaching lite variations on Trumpism—candidates like Clinton and Sanders who are speaking to America’s hopes rather than its fears, and who are attracting significantly higher levels of support than Trump.