The fight for LGBTQ rights has long been a focal point of the Democratic Party. Activists feared the election of Donald Trump would reverse the gains of recent years, but one change that has attracted little attention is that media coverage of LGBTQ issues has all but disappeared since Trump won the White House.
The timeline below shows the percentage of airtime on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News mentioning the words “gay” or “gays” by month from July 2009 to present, using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive processed by the GDELT Project.
For a larger view, click on the chart.
A hallmark of Obama-era media coverage, mentions of the two words essentially vanished after Trump was elected and have remained largely absent from coverage for the past three years.
Could it be that the media have shifted away from these two words to other related ones?
The timeline below shows the percentage of airtime that mentioned “gay” or “gays” or “lesbian” or “lesbians” or “transgender” or “LGBT” or “LGBTQ” or “queer” over the same time period.
While there has been a bit more coverage when including this larger basket of terms, mentions have still been minuscule since Trump’s election.
In contrast, the timeline below shows U.S. search interest for the phrase “LGBTQ” over the same time period, using Google Trends.
In contrast to the media’s virtual silence, search interest in LGBTQ issues has surged during Trump’s presidency.
What might explain this discrepancy?
The most likely explanation is that the daily deluge of headlines from a very mediagenic presidency has bombarded outlets with so many newsworthy stories that historically important topics like LGBTQ issues have been displaced from the news cycle.
Whatever the reason, it seems the media’s pivot away from LGBTQ issues does not match the public’s increasing interest in the topic and raises the question of what other major social issues also have been swept aside in the storm surge of coverage emerging from today’s Washington.
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.