Early Joe Biden Media Coverage Skews Slightly Negative

President Joe Biden
(Image credit: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)

Early media coverage of President Joe Biden has been slightly more negative than positive, according to a Pew Research analysis released on the eve of the President's first 100 days in office, but that was driven by overwhelmingly negative press from right-leaning media outlets.

The study, covering Biden's first 60 days, combined a content analysis* of media coverage (on broadcast, cable, online and in print) with a survey conducted March 8-14 among 12,045 adults (with a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points). All survey respondents were members of the Center’s American Trends Panel.

The study found that 32% of the stories about the Biden administration "offered negative assessments," compared to 23% positive ones, with 45% judged to be neither positive nor negative.

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But Pew found that 78% of stories from outlets with predominantly right-leaning audiences were negative. Liberal-leaning outlets had two-thirds higher audience members self-identified as liberal Democrats.

Among left-leaning media, only 19% of the stories were "negative assessments" and only 24% among outlets with a mix of outlooks (media outlets with about the same numbers of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans in their audiences).

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Pew survey of media coverage of President Biden's first 60 days in office

(Image credit: Pew Research Center)

Other key takeaways from the survey:

The content analysis revealed that COVID-19 was some element in 72% of the stories about the Biden Administration's early days, including 96% of the stories about the economy and virtually 100% of healthcare stories.

Stories about Biden tended focus on policy rather than leadership and character, the reverse of what a similar study found for coverage of the early days of the Trump Administration. About two-thirds (65%) of Biden stories were framed by policy and agenda issues and 35% on leadership and character. For Trump, only 26% were about policy and agenda and a whopping 74% about leadership and character.

* "For the content analysis portion of the report, news content was collected and studied from the television broadcasts of four cable news networks (CNN, FOX, MSNBC, Newsmax), four major broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS), and radio broadcasts of NPR and the two highest rated talk radio shows focused on political affairs and current events, according to Talkers.com (The Sean Hannity Show and The Mark Levin Show)."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.