How angry was CNN after Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election?
January 1, 2018//1,702 words
There are a lot of questions about truth and fairness that we have regarding major news media stations and the articles they post, especially during the past couple of years.
Some have turned into full-fledged wars (Trump vs CNN). Others just cause fear and doubt – how truthful is this article that I’m reading online? This other one is making some pretty big statements – is it real, or overly-dramatic in an attempt to force an agenda? This one website says that President Trump’s presidency has been a success so far, this other one says that it’s been a failure. Which one is telling the truth?
Well, I can’t speak for the character of journalists, if they truly produce unbiased work, or their ethics. I can say that I have been the victim of false-reporting personally, during two separate stories in my lifetime to this point, so there’s that. But there are more than two reporters out there, so for the ones I don’t know, let’s take a data-driven approach.
I recently launched a project online called “Before You Post That” that uses the power of IBM’s Watson to analyze text and recognize different tones of voice (e.g. confidence, anger). I’ve encouraged others to use this tool to analyze important emails before sending them. For example, before emailing your cover letter to a hiring manager, make sure it comes across as confident, not tentative.
But I thought I’d take a different approach this time – what can IBM’s Watson tell me about the tone of voice of a few major media outlets during and around major news stories (e.g. the 2016 presidential election)?
So, that data is contained in this brief post. I looked at posts from November 7, 2016 (the day before the presidential election) and November 9, 2016 (the day after). And I looked at some of the nation’s largest and most popular political sites – CNN, Fox News, NBC News, RealClearPolitics, FiveThirtyEight, and Politico. I don’t know your preexisting perceptions of these sites, and I only have a few (I only follow politics enough to be somewhat aware), but let’s just see if the data aligns with or differs from these perceptions. And then you can do with it what you will.
Process: I performed Google News searches for the specific dates, specific domains and included the keyword “politics”.
- It’s interesting, that although Fox News is known for being conservative, their articles gave off less of a joyful tone after the election and more that of sadness.
- November 7: The post with the most joyful score was titled “‘Disregarded ethics guidelines’: Clinton document raised issues with 2010 Shanghai Expo”.
- November 7: The post with the highest analytical and tentative scores was titled “DHS report: Hackers could meddle with election results reporting”.
- November 7: The post with the highest sadness score was titled “Fox News Poll: Clinton moves to 4-point edge over Trump”.
- November 9: The post with the highest fear score (by far) was titled “Many British politicians react with anger to Trump’s victory”.
- Opposite of Fox News, CNN, being known as a liberal media outlet, increased in its joyful tone of voice and decreased in its sadness after Trump won the 2016 election.
- November 7: The post with the highest tentative tone, by far, was titled “History and hyperbole: What young reporters witnessed covering Trump”.
- November 7: The post with the highest anger tone was titled “CNN To Live Stream Election Night Coverage”.
- November 9: The post with the highest fear tone was titled “Van Jones, Trump supporter clash over fear of camps”.
- November 9: The post with the highest tentative tone was titled “The election’s over. Here’s how to navigate the next few weeks with grace”.
- NBC News appeared to respond negatively to the election results with a large increase in anger tone and a large decrease in joy tone.
- November 7: The post with the highest tentative score was titled “Can Celebrities Make the Final Sale for Clinton and Trump?”.
- November 7: The post with the highest joy score was titled “On Trump’s Last Day of Campaigning, Trumpisms Abound”.
- November 9: The two posts with the highest anger scores were titled “Trump Victory: Russia’s Putin Sends Congratulations by Telegram” and “NBC News Exit Poll: Trump Dominates Among Working-Class Whites”.
- November 9: The post with the highest fear score was titled “Undocumented Immigrants Tell Trump They’re #HereToStay”.
- Realclearpolitics.com seemed to be very analytical prior to the election and very emotional after the election – seeing joy and sadness scores increase significantly.
- November 7: The post with the highest analytical score was titled “Senate Update: The Generic Ballot Is Hurting Democrats’ Chances”.
- November 7: The post with one of the highest tentative scores was titled “Election Update: Clinton Gains, And The Polls Magically Converge”.
- November 9: The post with the highest fear score was titled “Ezra Klein: ‘There Is Danger In Trump… Authoritarian Impulses'”.
- Fivethirtyeight.com appears to be the most analytical source of the group, posting the highest analytical scores both before and after the election.
- November 7: Two of the highest analytical scores came from posts titled “Senate Update: The Generic Ballot Is Hurting Democrats’ Chances” and “Election Update: The State Of The States”.
- November 9: The post with the highest analytical score was titled “Trump’s Win Hasn’t Crashed The Markets — At Least Not yet”.
- November 9: The post with the highest tentative score was titled “The Polls Missed Trump. We Asked Pollsters Why.”
- Alternatively, Politico.com rivaled NBC News for the lowest analytical scores and registered the highest combined sadness scores.
- November 7: The post with the highest sadness score was titled “Can the Supreme Court handle a disputed election?”
- November 9: The post with the highest anger score, by far, was titled “Trump Was Not a Media Fail”.
- November 9: The two posts with the highest fear scores were titled “Trump victory provokes crises in foreign policy” and “Obama’s West Wing ponders the apocalypse”.
The summaries are sort of deceiving. It makes sense that large sites like Fox News and CNN produced more articles on the two days in question than smaller sites like FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics. Because of that, individual articles by the smaller sites held more weight in the summaries.
Additionally, posts that featured quotes or input from other individuals likely realized a larger range of extreme tones. But the company is still responsible for what it posts on its site, regardless.
I found it far more telling to look at the individual articles.
Fox News was most joyful when speaking negatively about Hillary Clinton. And they were most sad when, before the election, they reported that Clinton’s lead in the polls was growing.
NBC News was most angry when discussing Trump and receiving congratulations from Vladimir Putin, and when reporting that Trump received the highest amount of votes from working-class white people.
Also, if you’re interested in doing a study like this, you can access a special section of the “Before You Post That” tool for multiple URLs by going here.