- The Trump-Ukraine impeachment push is crowding out media coverage of 2020 Democratic candidates.
- Even as Democrats continue to blame 2016 on “Russian bots” promoting Trump, they’re the ones giving him the lion’s share of publicity.
- Studies show media coverage correlates tightly with poll results, and confirm that’s how Donald Trump won in 2016.
House Democrats have raised the stakes in their bid to impeach President Donald Trump. The House Intelligence Committee’s Trump-Ukraine report released Tuesday accused Trump of committing serious political crimes.
In the first hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday, Democrats fielded a panel of legal scholars calling Trump’s actions on Ukraine an impeachable abuse of power.
How Impeachment Will Backfire in 2020
But the longer Democrats keep Trump in the hot seat, the more they cast him in the spotlight. That could even help him win reelection in 2020.
Democrats like Hillary Clinton have blamed Trump on a vast, shadowy conspiracy of “Russian bots” promoting him to voters on social media.
But Democrats themselves are the ones feverishly promoting Donald Trump going into 2020, just like they did in 2016. The impeachment hearings are crowding out media coverage of their own 2020 candidates.
Late last month, a White House columnist at The Hill sounded the alarm:
The sheer intensity of the spotlight on impeachment hearings on Capitol Hill is overshadowing the primacy process, even with the Iowa caucuses less than three months away.
That makes it more difficult for candidates to shift the trajectory of the race or have the kind of breakout moment that would change their fortunes at a stroke.
Media Coverage Correlates with Polls
The intensity of the Democrats’ push to impeach Donald Trump is hogging up the media’s attention. It makes the narrative about Trump, netting the president a fortune in free advertising as he campaigns for 2020.
Media coverage correlates very tightly with poll results. A study of online mainstream media mentions of 2016 primary candidates and national poll results confirms this correlation.
The study published by Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab yielded these results:
Another study of 18 mainstream media outlets’ 2020 Democratic primary coverage also shows the correlation:
Trump’s Critics Helped Him Win 2016
Studies also show the barrage of media publicity helped Donald Trump’s unexpected defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Trump got more coverage in the 2016 election, and media/political science researchers believe that helped him to win. Interestingly, coverage of Trump and Clinton was equally negative. But Trump got far more coverage.
A month after the shocking Trump victory, the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media published a study that quantified the scale of Trump’s publicity advantage.
The Shorenstein Center notes he was covered more during the 2016 primary:
During the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump was the center of press attention. Each month from the time he announced his candidacy until he received his party’s presidential nomination, he was the most heavily covered candidate.
And more during the 2016 general election:
Week after week, Trump got more press attention than did Clinton. Overall, Trump received 15 percent more coverage than she did.
The New York Times reported that as early as March 2016, Donald Trump had already received $2 billion worth of free publicity in earned media coverage.
Trump Impeachment Is More of the Same
In conclusion, the Trump impeachment push will backfire on Democrats. Making Donald Trump the center of attention already failed spectacularly in 2016. That was even with most of the attention being negative.
The problem is exacerbated by a “cry wolf” appearance to the latest allegations against Trump.
That’s why independents oppose impeachment in poll after poll. In late November, one House Democrat from Michigan’s delegation, Rep. Brenda Lawrence, even reversed course on her support for impeachment. She now sees “no value” in the push.
Like a plane that takes off against the resistance of the air as it moves forward, Donald Trump harnesses the resistance of his critics and monetizes it into free publicity. The Trump publicity gravity well is a beast of formidable marketing power. Democrats keep feeding the beast.
Last modified: September 23, 2020 1:21 PM