As the latest 2020 polls show Joe Biden’s once-substantial lead shrinking and Bernie Sanders’ and Elizabeth Warren’s fortunes improving, it seems media coverage of the Democratic field is similarly shifting.
The bar chart below shows the number of mentions of each candidate from Aug. 19-24 on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive as processed by the GDELT Project. (More detail on the search terms used for each candidate is available here.)
For a larger view, click on the chart.
Biden still enjoys a clear lead over the rest of the field, with Warren, Sanders and Kamala Harris making up the second tier of candidates. In comparison to her second-place ranking when considering all coverage this year, Harris’ media coverage standing appears to be on the decline, ranking fourth last week.
Perhaps worryingly for Biden, however, is that much of his lead comes from a surge of coverage on Aug. 20-21, as seen in the timeline below.
Moreover, mentions on the nightly news broadcasts for ABC (“World News Tonight With David Muir”), CBS (“Evening News” and “Evening News With Jeff Glor” and “Evening News With Norah O'Donnell”) and NBC (“Nightly News With Lester Holt”) show a very different picture, with Warren actually beating Biden, followed by Sanders and Harris.
Worse, almost all of Biden’s mentions came from ABC, while Sanders was almost entirely dependent on NBC. Warren was the only one of the “big four” contenders to receive nearly equal coverage from two different networks (ABC and CBS), though she received no mentions on NBC last week. In fact, none of the other candidates warranted even a single broadcast network mention.
The number of online news articles -- monitored from midnight Aug. 19 till noon Aug. 26 by the GDELT Project -- mentioning each candidate show an even more worrisome picture for the former vice president, with Warren taking the top position, followed by Sanders and then Biden. Harris has been relegated here to the top of the second tier of candidates.
All this considered, the field appears to be rapidly narrowing to a three-way slate of Warren, Sanders and Biden, but with the former gaining media stardom while the latter’s media starlight fades.
RealClear Media Fellow Kalev Leetaru is a senior fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber & Homeland Security. His past roles include fellow in residence at Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Government.