Where in the World Is Elizabeth Warren?
Twitter has been awash with hashtags like #WarrenMediaBlackout, #WarrenErasure, and #WhereIsWarren, the product of Warren supporters incensed with a perceived lack of coverage from major media outlets. They argue that the media has been unfairly biased in their coverage. An initial look at our data suggests they have good reason to be upset.
A distinct shortfall in coverage for Elizabeth Warren is apparent when looking at our dataset of more than 8,000 articles covering the Democratic candidates from popular media outlets since January 1. This lack of coverage, however, does not appear commensurate to her national polling averages, nor with her performances in the primaries thus far, especially if one looks at the relative coverage of other candidates.
Looking at 89 major news outlets, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden had an average of 54.3 and 40.0 articles published about them daily from January 1 to February 18, respectively.
The figure for Warren was just 21.6 articles per day, a number lower than the gap in their polling numbers would suggest.
Is Warren’s coverage driven by her results in the primaries?
Warren’s coverage has been out of line with her polling and the results of the first two primaries. Michael Bloomberg had an average of 20.5 articles published about him daily, despite not running in any of the primaries thus far. And at 21.7 articles per day, Pete Buttigeig’s average is no doubt lifted by his strong finishes in the first two contests, but that obscures that he has never polled above Warren in national averages.
These numbers are especially damning if one looks at Warren’s third and fourth place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire. Looking just at the day before, day of, and day after each race, Biden had nearly four times as many articles written about him when compared to Warren, even though he finished behind Warren in both primaries. Worse still, Michael Bloomberg’s coverage in the same period included twice as many articles as Warren, a remarkable feat considering he wasn’t even a participant in either contest.
Date range - December 1, 2019-February 19, 2020; graph from RealClearPolitics.
Amy Klobuchar supporters should no doubt feel similarly aggrieved, with her coverage measured at just 6.6 articles per day. Even the day after her third place finish in New Hampshire, Biden (who finished 5th) and Bloomberg (who didn’t run) received similar levels of coverage.
These observations don't conclusively prove that there is a coordinated media blackout since there are many factors at play, but Warren supporters should feel somewhat validated in arguing that her coverage has not been commensurate with her campaign or her national polling averages. The media chooses to cover what they think their readers want to see; we may assume that this would be correlated to polls, but it doesn't always work like this. She has polled solidly in third place in national averages for 41 of the 49 days in our dataset, ending with last week’s surge by Bloomberg, yet her coverage hardly reflects that broader appeal.
*This article was updated on February 23, 2020 to reflect changes to the dataset.
Written by Phillip Meylan
Phillip is a writer, editor, and researcher. Before completing his MSc in Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2019, he worked as an editor and content strategist for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. When he’s not working, you can find him playing soccer, hiking, or cooking.