Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center releases analysis of online media and social media coverage of 2016 presidential campaign

The Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society released a comprehensive analysis of online media and social media coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. The report, Partisanship, Propaganda, and Disinformation: Online Media and the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election (Aug. 16, 2017), documents how highly partisan right-wing sources helped shape mainstream press coverage and seize the public’s attention in the 18-month period leading up to the election.

From the Executive Summary:

In this study, we analyze both mainstream and social media coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election. We document that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Donald Trump’s agenda: when reporting on Hillary Clinton, coverage primarily focused on the various scandals related to the Clinton Foundation and emails. When focused on Trump, major substantive issues, primarily immigration, were prominent. Indeed, immigration emerged as a central issue in the campaign and served as a defining issue for the Trump campaign.

We find that the structure and composition of media on the right and left are quite different. The leading media on the right and left are rooted in different traditions and journalistic practices. On the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations steeped in the traditions and practices of objective journalism.

Our data supports lines of research on polarization in American politics that focus on the asymmetric patterns between the left and the right, rather than studies that see polarization as a general historical phenomenon, driven by technology or other mechanisms that apply across the partisan divide.

The analysis includes the evaluation and mapping of the media landscape from several perspectives and is based on large-scale data collection of media stories published on the web and shared on Twitter.

Recommended. — Joe

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