A blitz of both positive and negative media coverage played a large role in propelling Donald Trump to capture the Republican nomination, according to a new Harvard study out of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy. The study analyzed the coverage of both print and broadcast sources, reaching the conclusion that “Trump exploited their lust for riveting stories.” Had Trump spent money on advertising equivalent to the amount of free media coverage he got, he would have spent roughly $55 million, the study found. Trump’s next closest competitor, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, got just $36 million in free time by comparison.
Most of Trump’s media coverage (34 percent) had to do with his campaign activities and events, while 21 percent of it had to do with polls, and 27 percent of it was other miscellaneous coverage.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, independent Senator Bernie Sanders enjoyed the most positive coverage during the money primary, the report notes, while former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had the most unfavorable media coverage, with over a quarter of her reporting time spent on the issues and over 80 percent of that time spent on negative coverage. Trump, Ted Cruz, and Sanders had issues-related coverage 12, 9, and 7 percent of the time, respectively, and Trump had negative issues-related reporting 43 percent of the time, while both Cruz and Sanders had negative issues-related reporting less than one-third of the time.
With the primaries now over, will the media continue to bolster Trump and damage Clinton? It will be a story worth following.
Elliot Hazzard works for the American Principles Project.