As House Democrats rush to impeach President Trump this month, it is worth reflecting on just how large he has loomed over the media landscape since announcing his candidacy 4 ½ years ago and just how much impeachment has come to dominate media coverage of his presidency.
The timeline below shows the percentage of airtime on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News that mentioned “Trump” by month since May 2015, using data from the Internet Archive’s Television News Archive processed by the GDELT Project. (Click on the graphic to enlarge it.)
In the month after his election, Trump accounted for almost a quarter of the total airtime across the three cable news channels, dropping to around 10%-15% since August 2017, with MSNBC consistently mentioning him more than the other two.
In all, since first announcing his candidacy, Trump has been mentioned 2.6 million times across the three channels, totaling 14.5% of MSNBC’s total airtime, 12.9% of CNN’s airtime and 11.3% of Fox News’ airtime. Despite the latter being a perennial favorite of the president, it actually mentions him the least of the three.
The timeline below compares the total number of mentions of President Obama from July 2009 (the start of the Internet Archive’s data) through this month, with mentions of Trump from May 2015 through present.
Despite comparing a decade of Obama mentions to just 4 ½ years of Trump mentions, Trump was mentioned 1.8 times more than his predecessor. CNN has mentioned Trump 2.4 times more than Obama, MSNBC 2.1 times more and Fox News just 1.3 times more, showing the most balance between the two. Even looking at the period of July 2017 to present for Trump yields 92% of the mentions Obama has received over the entire past decade.
Beginning in May 2017, just four months into his term, the specter of impeachment became a central theme of coverage of the Trump presidency. Mentions of “impeach” or “impeached” or “impeachable” or “impeaching” or “impeachment” reached 7.8% of total airtime in October 2019, 6.9% in November and 8.8% thus far this month. In all, the terms have been mentioned 153,542 times since May 2015.
The timeline below shows the total number of times impeachment has been mentioned as a percentage of the total number of times Trump has been mentioned by month since his inauguration. The last two months impeachment has been mentioned 64% as much as Trump himself in any context and 86% as much thus far this month.
Impeachment appears to have drowned out coverage of the presidency the last few months, overshadowing virtually everything else.
For the 2020 Democratic hopefuls vying for attention, Trump looms large over the race, receiving almost 1.7 times as many mentions thus far in 2019 than the entire Democratic field combined, ranging from twice as many mentions on MSNBC to 1.7 times as many on CNN and 1.4 times as many on Fox News, as seen in the chart below. In all, Trump has been mentioned at least 480,905 times across the three channels in 2019, compared with just 286,288 times for the 24 most-mentioned Democrats all together.
In the end, the graphs above show just how much Donald Trump has come to dominate the media landscape, yet at the same time just how much impeachment has come to dominate coverage of his entire presidency.
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.