Home – Candidate Polarization: Media Monitoring Reveals Trends

Candidate Polarization: Media Monitoring Reveals Trends

Posted on 02-25-2016 by Megan Burnside

A Jet Blue ad has been making the rounds across social media. Have you seen it? An airline executive boards the flight to inform the travelers that they can each have a free, round-trip ticket to any domestic or international destination Jet Blue flies to if—and it’s a big ‘if’ in today’s political climate— they can “Reach Across the Aisle” to agree on a single destination. The ad emphasizes how much presidential politics have permeated the conversations in America. The airline’s director of brand management and advertising, Elizabeth Windram, told Adweek, “We’ve seen so much news coverage lately that paints the picture of a society becoming increasingly polarized and politicians incapable of working together. This video is our way of questioning that assumption.”  What does media monitoring and analysis tell us about the polarization of the 2016 Election?

Media Trends Reflect a Divided Constituency

We’ve seen evidence ourselves, even within individual parties. Just look at the latest Share of Voice charts from our U.S. Presidential Campaign Tracker.

As you can see, media monitoring shows that share of voice is almost evenly divided between Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  On the opposite side, Republican front-runner Donald Trump is capturing a similar share of voice, while the remaining candidates make a grab for the voters (and small share of media attention) that Jeb Bush left behind after dropping out of the race following another disappointing primary showing.

The most impressive gains have been made, in fact, by Bernie Sanders who lagged behind in media coverage for some time, but following his recent wins in Iowa and New Hampshire has finally earned the media’s attention.


It’s not just American media that has taken notice. A recent BBC News article points out that “On both extremes of the political spectrum, Mr. Trump and Mr. Sanders are connecting with a deep-seated anxiety among voters. Although their messages and solutions are polar opposites, their appeal to disillusioned Americans has helped fill huge auditoriums with supporters, more than all the other candidates combined.”  In fact, in the UK and Europe, media coverage is similar to—or even eclipses—that across the United States, and foreign media has taken note of the political divides.

Campaign Topics Remain Relatively Consistent

While those on the campaign trail or walking the halls of Congress can’t seem to reach across the aisles on the issues, there appears to be some agreement as to what the issues are. As you can see from the chart detailing hot topics among all candidates, the shifts in article volume are less dramatic. The most contentious and most covered issues include abortion, education, energy & oil, healthcare, immigration and taxes. The recent surge in article volume around abortion may have something to do with the now open seat on the Supreme Court bench—and who may be tapped to fill the space.

The good news—at least in the case of 150 airline passengers—is that it is possible to overcome differing opinions and reach a mutual understanding. (Get ready Costa Rica!)  We’ll have to wait and see how the ongoing presidential campaigns roll out.  If the country remains virulently divided through November, we can only hope Jet Blue resurrects its “Election Protection” campaign from 2012, when it offered 1,006 free flights out of the country “… if your guy (or gal) loses.”

3 Ways to Apply This Information Now

  1. Explore more media analysis in the run-up to Super Tuesday on our U.S. Presidential Campaign Tracker.
  2. Register for a free trial of LexisNexis Newsdesk™ to experience it for yourself.
  3. Share this blog on LinkedIn to keep the dialogue going with your colleagues and contacts. 

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