Election 2016

Study: False Equivalency Dominated 2016 Coverage

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

The conclusions of this study probably won't shock anyone, but it's useful to see false equivalency quantified.

According to the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were both covered just as negatively as the other in news reports.

Both candidates were covered negatively 87 percent of the time and both were covered positively 13 percent of the time.

“False equivalencies abound in today’s reporting,” writes [Thomas E. Patterson]. “When journalists can’t, or won’t, distinguish between allegations directed at the Trump Foundation and those directed at the Clinton Foundation, there’s something seriously amiss. And false equivalencies are developing on a grand scale as a result of relentlessly negative news. If everything and everyone is portrayed negatively, there’s a leveling effect that opens the door to charlatans.

What the study's author alludes to is what we commonly know as the "both sides" meme. If everything is terrible, then nothing is terrible. If both sides are corrupt, then neither side is corrupt.

According to study author Thomas Patterson, the fake email scandal was covered more than any other subject including the infamous pussy tape wherein despot-elect Donald Trump talked about trying to "fuck" married women and committing sexual assault.

Even among Trump's scandals, the "grab'em by the pussy" tape wasn't covered as negatively as his stance on immigration. A stance that, last I checked, he has completely abandoned.

  • It’s small comfort that what we said was happening was actually happening. And infuriating that the media will totally ignore the study.

  • muselet

    Kevin Drum is rightly disturbed that the overall percentage of positive news coverage of presidential elections went from 76% in 1960 to 29% in 2016.

    All in all, the Shorenstein Center study does not reflect well on our glorious news media.


  • fry1laurie

    And as pResdient-elect, he’s shown his loyalty (in cabinet positions) to the working man, more like “an entire class he has abandoned.”

  • Badgerite

    Get used to saying that phrase, ” a stance he has abandoned”. I think we will be hearing a lot more of that as time goes on.

    • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

      Now, if he’ll just abandon everything he ever said…