Home – Election Media Coverage Cooling Off as Race Heats Up

Election Media Coverage Cooling Off as Race Heats Up

Posted on 05-12-2016 by Megan Burnside

Forty-seven down, nine to go. The end of the presidential primary season is drawing ever closer, with contests in Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Indiana now under the nation’s belt.

While the candidates themselves appear to be in the midst of a feeding frenzy—pulling out all the stops to forge ahead—media monitoring and news analysis indicates the election’s media coverage is falling dramatically.


Since February’s end, media coverage of the 2016 Presidential Election has plummeted by almost half; despite multiple high-profile primaries, media interest has plateaued.

As 503 GOP and 1,206 Democratic delegates remain, journalists report that a Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton face-off may be inevitable come November. This conclusion grows more certain as Bernie Sander’s campaign dulls and Ted Cruz and John Kasich both exit the race (poor guys).

Could it be, that as the presidential frontrunners are closing in, Americans are experiencing campaign fatigue? Or are journalists simply tired of writing stories that contain little to no surprises?

Nicole Hemmer, columnist for U.S. News & World Report and Visiting Research Associate at University of Virginia’s Miller Center, a nonpartisan institute that provides critical insights for the presidency, policy and political history, believes a downshift in media coverage may be caused by the presidential election’s structure.

“After the March 1 primaries, the basic trajectory of the race was clear. Donald Trump had demonstrated that he could match his poll numbers, and one-time frontrunners like Jeb Bush were bowing out. While Clinton continued to struggle against Bernie Sanders, she was steadily building a pledged delegate lead that would soon seem insurmountable,” Hemmer said. “While there were still a number of surprising results and novel strategies deployed in March and April, none of them fundamentally changed the structure of the race.”

“It’s ironic that one of the most consequential presidential elections in American history is experiencing ever-shrinking media coverage. But that’s what happens when nomination contests are presented as horse races,” said Barbara Perry, a White Burkett Miller professor of ethics and institutions and director of presidential studies at the Miller Center. “The Kentucky Derby is billed as ‘the most exciting two minutes in sports.’ Two minutes! Not 18 months.”

Even Colorado’s former GOP party chairman Wadhams recognizes this lassitude with Trump’s surge to the top.

“Fatigue is probably the perfect description of what people are feeling,” Wadhams said on April 28. “There is an acceptance, a resignation or whatever that Trump is going to be a nominee… People just want this to be over with.”

Despite the cooling coverage, one thing is for sure: though Americans may be throwing in the towel, the remaining candidates aren’t backing down. Sanders insists he will campaign until July’s convention, while Clinton is refocusing her efforts to #StopTrump come November.

3 Ways to Apply This Information Now

  1. Explore more media analysis of the presidential campaign
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