Media Coverage of President’s Agenda Falling Fast


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By Ryan Isakow

President Obama’s second term has been marked by legislative gridlock and frustration over his agenda. In particular, his initiatives for gun control, immigration reform, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act have attracted controversy  – and extensive media coverage.

At TrendPo, we like to use data to get a grasp on what’s going on in the media. Using our national news database*, we looked at how the media coverage of the President’s major second term issues has changed since inauguration.

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The most striking change is the massive drop in gun control coverage.  Attention was highest in January and February; at this point, the memory of Sandy Hook was still fresh, the President had recently released his plan to combat gun violence, and negotiations over a possible Senate bill were in full swing.  However, the more time that passed since the Sandy Hook shooting, the more gun control fell out of the news. By the April 17th Senate vote, there was 1/5th as much media attention given to gun control as there was at the start of the year.  The bill failed to get past a filibuster, and has yet to be revived.

Immigration also saw a fall in news coverage, but has consistently received more attention than either gun control or the Affordable Care Act. Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012 does much to explain this – in the aftermath of the election, Republican strategists publicly focused on immigration reform as a way to get more of the Latino vote. This translated into buzz about the possibility of a bipartisan immigration bill. High profile negotiations dominated the news cycle for months, culminating in the passage of a bill by the Senate in June. The House has been slow to take up the issue, and coverage has fallen in response to the lack of progress.

Finally, many of the Affordable Care Act’s most controversial aspects, including insurance exchanges and the individual mandate, are being prepared for a 2014 rollout. Media coverage has focused on the private sector’s response to the increasing implementation of the bill as well as Republican criticism of various components. More recently, attention has been focused on unexpected issues like the delay of the employer mandate for one year. We expect Affordable Care Act coverage to surpass immigration as the legislative impasse in the House continues and the health insurance exchanges come online.

We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on news and social media trends as these issues evolve over the next year.

*National news sources include the New York Times, LA Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Huffington Post, CNN, Fox News, The Economist, and NPR.

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