Former Vice President Joe Biden is still getting the lion’s share of media coverage relative to other candidates, according to data from the TV News Archive,1 which splits cable news coverage across the three networks we monitor — CNN, Fox News and MSNBC — into 15-second clips, and Media Cloud,2 a database of online news stories. Biden’s share of cable news clips and online news stories decreased from last week, but he was still mentioned more on cable news than every other candidate combined.
Much of the recent coverage of Biden emerged in response to news of President Trump’s phone call to Ukraine, in which he asked the president of Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son. Last week, we saw some evidence that this Ukraine scandal could be drawing media attention away from the 2020 Democratic primaries, and this week it seems that continues to be true.
|Cable TV clips the week of …||online stories the week of …|
But it’s not equally true across all the cable news networks. For the second week in a row, Biden was mentioned more on Fox News than on the other networks we monitor. He was mentioned in 855 clips on CNN and 851 clips on MSNBC, compared to 1,058 clips on Fox News, where he is more at the center of the Ukraine story.
But while Fox News does seem to be focusing more on Biden, it hasn’t reduced its coverage of other candidates as much as CNN and MSNBC seem to have. For example, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was mentioned in 254 clips on Fox News last week, but only 105 on CNN and 153 on MSNBC. That’s significantly fewer clips on CNN and MSNBC compared to the previous week, but not a huge change in the number of Fox News clips that mention her. And it’s not just true of Warren: There has been more of an overall reduction in mentions of non-Biden candidates on CNN and MSNBC compared to Fox News over the last two weeks.
As the Trump impeachment inquiry continues, we’ll be right here to see how the scandal affects the amount of media coverage that 2020 Democratic primary candidates get, and whether or not candidates other than Biden have a chance at the media spotlight. Stay tuned!
The TV News Archive measures coverage by splitting CNN, Fox News and MSNBC’s daily news footage into 15-second clips and finding the clips that contain a mention of our search query. Our search queries are the full names of each candidate. The GDELT Television API, which processes the data from the TV News Archive, measures a week of coverage from Sunday through Saturday. The cutoff for measuring coverage for any given day is midnight Eastern Standard Time. (Clock changes for Daylight Saving Time are ignored.)
Our search queries are the full names of each candidate, except for Julian Castro. Since his name is sometimes written with an accent mark and sometimes without, our search query for him looks for “Julian Castro” OR “Julián Castro.” We aggregate the data from Sunday through Saturday of each week to match the queries of TV news. Media Cloud dates articles based on when the article page says the story was published, which means that it is insensitive to time zones and its cutoff times each week may be slightly different than the times used for the cable news data.
Dhrumil Mehta is a database journalist at FiveThirtyEight focusing on politics. @DataDhrumil