Let’s just say media coverage of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows.
Not that it should be: Trump’s alleged history of sexual assault, racial discrimination, and shady tax practices are all serious matters. But the media’s tone on Trump comes largely from the man himself: His rhetoric is bombastic, he casually encourages violence, and fear-mongering is one of his default messaging tactics.
So it came as no surprise when The Atlantic’s computer assessment of more than a year’s worth of news coverage—from more than 50 newspapers and websites—suggested that coverage of Clinton was, overall, slightly “happier” than coverage of Trump. Part of that determination involved comparing the emotional sentiment of various words that cropped up more often in articles about one candidate or the other. (You can read more about that experiment here.)
There were limitations to the approach (for one, it was colored by the language of the candidates' own quotes ), but the end result was revealing and intriguing. Still, we had all this data on our hands, and I wanted to zoom in a bit closer.
Beyond identifying the most positive or negative words that were strongly associated with coverage of either candidate, I wanted to know which words pop up most overall in coverage of Clinton versus coverage of Trump. Perhaps we would see more references to “pantsuits” or gendered descriptions like “shrill” in Clinton stories. Or maybe there would be an outsized number of references to “bronzer” and “short fingers” in articles about Trump?