News & Politics

Trump's Popularity Rose Despite 90 Percent Negative Media Coverage in 2018

Despite constant one-sided negative news coverage by the big three TV networks, President Donald Trump’s public approval rating rose slightly in 2018, according to a new report from the Media Research Center (MRC). MRC analyzed the ABC, CBS, and NBC evening newscasts, which were seen by approximately 23 million people each night.

“The tone of coverage remains incessantly hostile: 90% negative, vs. just 10% positive (excluding neutral statements),” MRC’s Rich Noyes reported Tuesday. “Yet despite the media’s obvious disapproval, public opinion of the President actually improved slightly during 2018, from an average 40% approval on January 1 to 42.7% approval on December 31, according to RealClearPolitics.”

According to MRC’s monitoring, coverage of the Trump presidency slightly declined in 2018. In the first year of the Trump presidency, ABC, CBS, and NBC spent 99 hours covering the president, while this past year they dedicated 87 hours to his tenure, which still accounted for 28 percent of all evening news airtime.

“As has been the case since the President took office, the tone of network coverage has been exceptionally hostile, ranging from 82% negative in April 2017 (after Trump was praised for a missile strike punishing Syria for a chemical weapons attack) to 96% negative in February 2018 (when the news agenda focused on the Russia investigation, demands for gun control, and a White House aide accused of domestic abuse),” the report noted.

MRC also referenced the Pew Research Center’s finding that during Trump’s first 60 days in office, 62 percent of network stories were negative while only 5 percent were positive and 33 percent were neutral. “If you remove the neutral stories and look at just the stories with a clear spin, Pew’s bottom line looks like ours: 93% negative spin, v. just 7% positive.”

Rich Noyes also compared MRC’s results to those of Harvard media scholar Thomas Patterson, who found that NBC’s coverage was 93 percent negative and CBS’s was 91 percent negative. Only Fox News offered balanced coverage (52 percent negative vs. 48 percent positive).

A Gallup survey from October 2018 found that Americans’s trust in the mass media has increased to 45 percent from its 2016 low (32 percent). Democrats accounted for the shift, with 76 percent saying they trust the media (up from 51 percent in 2016). Only 21 percent of Republicans agreed, however, and only 42 percent of independents shared Democrats’ rosy perception of the mass media.

MRC shared the top five stories of 2018: the Russia investigation (858 minutes of 98 percent negative coverage); immigration policies (643 minutes of 94 percent negative coverage); the Kavanaugh Supreme Court battle (435 minutes of 84 percent negative coverage); the crisis and detente with North Korea (410 minutes of 80 percent negative coverage); and the investigation into Michael Cohen and the pay-offs to porn stars (341 minutes of 99 percent negative coverage).

The government shutdown became the main topic in December, with 67 minutes of air time in the last month of 2018. Nearly 97 percent of the networks’ coverage of Trump on the shutdown was negative, MRC reported.

None of this is to suggest that the president does not deserve some negative press coverage. As president, Trump has made both good and bad decisions. The problem comes when media outlets effectively declare war on the president, demonizing everything he touches. A 90 percent spin is egregious.

Despite this veritable onslaught of negative press, Trump’s approval rating actually slightly increased throughout last year. The “Teflon Don” strikes again.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.