Data Studies

Ahead of the 2018 midterms, a look back at the 2016 presidential candidate media coverage

To set a benchmark ahead of the 2018 midterms — and soon enough, the 2020 presidential elections — we turned to data to understand the full story of how the media covered the 2016 elections and how readers responded. The question: How much coverage did each of the presidential candidates receive in the media in the months leading up to the 2016 presidential election?

Parse.ly analyzed a sampling of 257,855 articles from more than 300 media organizations, from November 2, 2015 until December 1, 2016, and determined which candidate each of the articles was primarily focused on.

Based on sample data, journalists wrote about Donald Trump 91.5% more than Hillary Clinton. This could be for a number of factors, including Trump being new in the political world, or Trump having more stories to report on. Since becoming president, Trump has continued to to be covered heavily in the media.

Media coverage of candidates during the 2016 primaries

Going backwards a bit, the sample data also allowed us to examine coverage between candidates from the same parties. Below are the articles written about each candidate from the two major parties during the primary season.

* Combining above graphs equals 100% of sampled data (257,855 articles).
* Candidate reporting ends when they withdrew their candidacy.

Democratic Primary: Between November 2, 2015 and August 29, 2016, 66% of articles about Democrats were written about Clinton and 34% about Bernie Sanders. At her highest point, Clinton had 77% of coverage for Democratic primary candidates which occured the week of July 25, 2016 — the week Clinton formally accepted the nomination for presidential party candidate at the Democratic National Convention.

Republican Primary: Of the 59,499 articles written about the top three Republican contenders between Nov 2, 2015 to May 9, 2016, 75% were written about Trump, 19% about Ted Cruz, and 6% about John Kasich. At his highest point, Trump had 85% of coverage for Republican primary candidates, which occurred the week of February 29, 2016, likely propelled by his win of 11 states on March 1, which was Super Tuesday.

Gauging reader interest in candidates

The data indicates that Trump enjoyed a large share of journalists’ attention. But what was interesting to the readers? Parse.ly analyzed the data on article views to determine which candidate recieved the most engagement. We looked at over 3 billion page views for our analysis below.

Click segments to change timeframe
11/02/2015
05/03/2016 & 05/04/2016
Cruz and Kasich drop bid
07/28/2016
Clinton accepts nomination
11/08/2016
Election Day

Trump

Articles written about Trump
Page views to articles about Trump

Cruz

Articles written about Cruz
Page views to articles about Cruz

Kasich

Articles written about Kasich
Page views to articles about Kasich

Clinton

Articles written about Clinton
Page views to articles about Clinton

Sanders

Articles written about Sanders
Page views to articles about Sanders

Impact going forward

Trump enjoyed a significant amount of media coverage during the election cycle, which was backed up by reader interest. As Trump's presidency progresses, Parse.ly continues to monitor more than 1 billion page views per day for continued interest from consumers of political news, including data related to the 2018 midterm primaries and the 2020 presidential elections.

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