This is a test-run of a new feature exploring how politics is covered by the mainstream U.S. news media.
Specifically, I’m undertaking an effort to estimate how negative – or positive – political news reporting is from major media outlets. At the moment, my analysis focuses solely on CNN and Fox News. CNN is included because they are a favorite target of the President, who frequently labels them “fake news,” and Fox News is included because they are generally regarded as having a conservative political slant, suggesting their coverage of the Trump administration might generally be more favorable than that of other news outlets.
The graphic below shows the average sentiment conveyed by CNN and Fox News between Saturday March 4, 2017 and Thursday June 22, 2017.
Sentiment is defined here as the average number of positive words per article each day (words like “love,” “respect,” and “admire,” for example) minus the average number of negative words per article each day (words like “hate,” “terror,” and “disgrace,” for example).
Over the course of the past week, both CNN and Fox News used more negative words than positive words in their political news coverage. However, CNN exhibited slightly less negativity than Fox News. During the past seven days, the average political news story at CNN contained 3.33 more negative words than positive words. At Fox News, however, the average political news story contained 4.03 more negative words than positive words.
Over the last 111 days, the average political news article from CNN included 2.27 more negative words than positive words, whereas over at Fox News the average article included 2.83 more negative words than positive words.
The graphic below shows the relationship between the average sentiments conveyed by CNN and Fox News.
At the moment, there is a slight positive correlation (r = 0.25) between sentiments. This means, for example, that on days when political coverage at Fox News tended to be fairly negative (when the average news story included either many negative words or few positive words), political coverage over at CNN also tended to fairly negative.
However, this positive relationship is driven mostly by news coverage of the U.S. missile strike against Syria, which occurred on April 6, 2017. The following day on April 7, the average political news story at CNN contained 16.16 more negative words than positive words, whereas over at Fox News the average political news story contained 10.6 more negative words than positive words.
What were the Most Positive & Negative News Stories on Thursday June 22, 2017?
Most Positive Stories:
CNN: Romney McDaniel: One woman’s rise to the top of Republican politics (45 Negative Words vs. 59 Positive words)
Fox News: In Georgia, Republicans celebrate while Dems seek upsides (9 Negative words vs. 32 Positive words)
Most Negative Stories:
CNN: At slain Muslim teen’s funeral, mourners say ‘it could have been me’ (65 Negative words vs. 14 Positive words)
Fox News: Pelosi’s party begins to turn on her after defeats, stagnation (30 Negative words vs. 15 Positive words)
What Words Appeared Most Frequently in the News on Thursday June 22, 2017?
What was Happening in the News this Week?
Below is a list of the top headlines from each of the past 7 days, starting with Friday June 16, 2017 and ending with Thursday June 22, 2017. The list comes from Memeorandum, a website that employs an algorithm to auto-generate a summary of popular news stories throughout the day. Each article was featured as the top story as of 1:00 PM EST on each respective day.
- Friday, June 16, 2017: Special counsel is investigating Jared Kushner’s business dealings, Washington Post
- Saturday, June 17, 2017: Judge in Bill Cosby Case Declares a Mistrial, New York Times
- Sunday, June 18, 2017: Trump Attorney: The President Is Not Under Investigation, NBC News
- Monday, June 19, 2017: GOP considers cancelling August recess to salvage agenda, The Hill
- Tuesday, June 20, 2017: Trump’s handling of Russia investigations weighs on approval ratings, CBS News
- Wednesday, June 21, 2017: GA-06: Why Handel’s Win Isn’t a Disaster for Democrats, The Cook Political Report
- Thursday, June 22, 2017: Senate health-care draft repeals Obamacare taxes, provides bigger subsidies for low-income Americans than House bill, Washington Post
A Little About the Methods
The findings presented here are based on a sentiment analysis of 3,027 articles from CNN (scraped from CNN’s politics RSS feed) and 1,084 articles from Fox News (scraped from Fox News’ politics RSS feed). The difference in the number of articles between the two news organizations is due to the fact that CNN offers 30 articles in their news feed at any given time, whereas Fox News offers only 10 articles in their news feed at any given time. Because the analysis of Fox News’ political coverage is based on a smaller sample size of articles, we should expect to see a greater number of extreme values – conveying either positive sentiment or negative sentiment – for Fox News relative to CNN. Both news feeds are embedded below.
Articles were scraped from each news feed at approximately the same time each day, roughly between 12:00 pm EST and 4:00 pm EST.
A few words that were not intended to express either positive or negative sentiment, but which were flagged by the opinion lexicon as expressing sentiment, were removed from the corpus prior to analysis. Some examples of words that were removed for this reason include: “trump” and “right” – marked in the opinion lexicon as expressing positive sentiment – and “conservative” and “vice” – marked in the opinion lexicon as expressing negative sentiment.
Of course, these results should not be viewed as anything more than mere estimates of the average sentiments conveyed by CNN and Fox News. For a listing of some important caveats and limitations to keep in mind regarding this analysis, and for a discussion of what these findings might – and probably do not – tell us about political news coverage, check out this post.
CNN Politics Feed
Gowdy decries leaks out of Coats meeting with House intelligence
on June 23, 2017 at 4:09 am
Rep. Trey Gowdy on Thursday warned his fellow lawmakers about leaking information from closed briefings. […]
Amid partisanship, lawmakers unite for White House picnic
on June 23, 2017 at 2:15 am
Lawmakers are taking a rare break from bitter partisan politics and heading to the White House Thursday evening for a good old-fashioned picnic. […]
Obama on Senate bill: It's 'not a health care bill'
on June 23, 2017 at 2:11 am
President Barack Obama on Thursday spoke out against a proposed GOP Senate bill that dismantles the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. […]
Little movement on White House probe into voter fraud
on June 23, 2017 at 1:46 am
On Super Bowl Sunday this year, President Donald Trump told Fox News that Vice President Mike Pence would head a commission into voter fraud allegations -- ones that he made, claiming that between three to five million people voted illegally in the 2016 election. […]
Sniper hits ISIS target from over 2 miles away
on June 23, 2017 at 12:54 am
A Canadian special operations sniper successfully hit an ISIS fighter from a record-breaking distance of more than two miles away while assisting Iraqi forces in the push to retake Mosul, according to Canadian Special Operations Command. […]
Fox News Politics Feed
California bans state travel to Texas, 3 other states over anti-LGBT laws
on June 23, 2017 at 4:01 am
California's attorney general blocked state-funded travel to Texas and three other states on Thursday in response to what he considers anti-LGBT rights laws enacted this year. […]
Tom Price: ObamaCare replacement 'has to be done'
on June 23, 2017 at 4:01 am
Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told Fox News Thursday night that repealing and replacing ObamaCare "has to be done." […]
Trump nominates ambassadors to UK and Belgium
on June 22, 2017 at 11:43 pm
President Trump has nominated Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets, to become the U.S. Ambassador to the UK. […]
Senate health care bill: 4 key Republicans come out against GOP plan
by Brooke Singman on June 22, 2017 at 11:15 pm
Key Republican senators came out against the Senate Republican health care plan on Thursday, and their opposition is enough to defeat the package before a vote. […]
Chaffetz replacement: Who are the Utah congressional candidates?
by Kaitlyn Schallhorn on June 22, 2017 at 8:15 pm
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, will resign from his congressional seat at the end of June — and the district is not lacking people willing to replace him. […]
Brian Kurilla is a psychological scientist with a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology. You can follow Brian on Twitter @briankurilla