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Following a debate performance in which Bernie Sanders was declared the winner by those covering the final democratic debate before the Iowa caucuses, CNN offered its ‘mea culpa” for being one of the many major media outlets that have failed to pay much attention to this dark horse candidate. He was perceived as “a grumpy 74-year-old Democratic socialist from Vermont with a bag full of expensive left-wing policy nostrums” that would never give Hillary Clinton a run for her money. Not anymore. After his surprisingly aggressive performance in the debate and his surging poll numbers in Iowa and New Hampshire, Bernie Sanders appears to have stolen some of the thunder (and headlines) that other Democratic and Republican candidates have enjoyed.
While Sanders is not yet garnering as much attention from the media as Clinton or Republican front-runner Donald Trump, he’s definitely showing upward momentum.
In addition, as you can see in the latest Share of Voice chart below, while Martin O’Malley’s media share languishes at its current low level, Sander’s share of media attention has chipped away at Clinton’s media dominance.
How Did Sanders Gain a Following without Traditional Media’s Help?
In breaking down the media coverage by source, we can see that Sanders has enjoyed significant coverage by online news sources, which was his primary media coverage until recently.
Sanders is particularly popular with mobile-centric millennial voters who seek out news in less traditional places including YouTube and other social media outlets. Sander’s campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said, “At every stop, the media had an explanation for why the crowds weren’t significant.” Whether it was because the rally was taking place in a neighboring state or a liberal college town, broadcasters and journalists down-played the growing support the candidate experienced at rallies.
As CNN points out, “Despite being proven wrong time and time again, many commentators and reporters continue to cling to an unshakable faith in the conventional wisdom about the campaign while often ignoring realities on the ground.” Bernie's latest advertising campaign has set the media abuzz, and now that Bernie Sanders has finally popped up on the media’s radar, it will be interesting to see what happens next on the long road to Philadelphia and the Democratic National Convention in July. We’ll keep monitoring the progress, so please keep coming back!