How many thinkpieces have you read about Trump voters? Dozens? Hundreds? How many times have you turned on cable news to see a field reporter in West Virginia or Ohio, out communing with the white working class? Now think about Clinton voters. We know there are 65 million of them. But CNN doesn’t ever go to Los Angeles or El Paso to find them. There was little writing on Clinton voters during the election season, and almost no reflection since the inauguration on how Trump’s policies are affecting the people who didn’t vote for him. Where are the mainstream media articles on Clinton voters?
How do 65 million people go largely unnoticed?
During the primary
During last year’s Democratic primary, the media fixated on Bernie Sanders’ voters – both their positive and negative aspects. Bernie was lauded for his appeal to younger voters. Mother Jones, Vox, The Hill, FiveThirtyEight, Time Magazine – every major publication wanted to answer the question: Why do millennials love Bernie Sanders so much?
The media also looked at the darker side of Bernie’s support among young people, as articles on abusive “Bernie bros” proliferated. Bernie supporters received both positive and negative media attention, while Hillary voters received almost no media focus whatsoever.
During the Democratic primaries, the majority of the media attention went to Bernie supporters, who were primarily white and young. The intense media focus on Bernie’s voters as opposed to Hillary’s becomes completely unsurprising when you consider that most of our culture is centered around young, white people. If you don’t believe me, go turn on CBS or NBC for five minutes. But for all the focus on Sanders voters, there weren’t enough of them to win him the nomination. Clinton had millions more supporters.
So who were these people? Why weren’t they being profiled by the mainstream media? When you google “Bernie voters” or “Bernie young voters,” dozens of profiles immediately pop up in the search results. If you google “Hillary Clinton voters,” the only article on the first page that talks about people who voted FOR her is a fake news article falsely claiming that she received 800,000 illegal, non-citizen votes. There are zero profiles on her voters. No articles about the people who did vote for her.
So who voted for Hillary in the primary? A YouGov/Economist poll broke up the primary electorate into four groups: non-white 18-44, non-white 45+, white 18-44, and white 45+. Clinton won every group except white 18-44. Older white voters and non-white voters of all ages favored Clinton. Why didn’t the media cover these people? What did they want, what were their concerns? What made them support Hillary? The majority of the Democratic electorate remained unexamined.
During the general
If you google “Clinton Black voters,” the first page of results is filled with articles about her failures with Black voters. The New York Times published “Young Blacks Voice Skepticism on Hillary Clinton” on September 4th, Politico published “Clinton campaign in ‘panic mode’ over Florida black voters” on September 28th, and FiveThirtyEight published “Unlike Their Parents, Black Millennials Aren’t a Lock for Clinton” on September 20th. By the media coverage, you’d think Clinton did poorly among Black voters. In reality, Clinton won 89% of the Black vote, and 94% of the Black female vote.
Why was the media more concerned with the 11% of Black voters opposed to her, than the 89% in favor? Clinton won every racial group besides white people. Clinton won women, 54-41. Clinton also won the most votes – approximately 65 million of them. So why is it so hard to find any articles about her voters? Where are the profiles on the older Black women who volunteered for her? Why wasn’t CNN interviewing her Latina supporters? I can think of one article I saw during general election season that profiled Clinton voters, this excellent New York Times piece about Latina Las Vegas hotel workers. That’s it. One article. My experience is anecdotal, of course, but I read a lot of news. Clinton voters simply weren’t being interviewed.
Since the election
Since the election, media reporting on the impact of Trump’s policies has largely focused on their impact on Trump’s own voters. There’s a compelling hook – “look at these Trump voters who voted their own health insurance away.” The New York Times, NBC, the LA Times – all have explored the fate of Trump voters. I couldn’t find a single article asking what is happening now to Clinton voters, those who tried to keep their insurance and are now losing it through no fault of their own.
CNN regularly sends correspondents like Van Jones out to talk to Trump voters. They aired a town hall called, “Bernie Sanders in Trump Country.” Over and over again, the mainstream media has gone to rural white America to ask them why they voted Republican, even though they always vote Republican.
But what has happened to Clinton voters? Who were those 65 million people, and how is the Trump administration affecting them? Where are the CNN profiles on Black home health aides in Atlanta, Latinx Uber drivers in Chicago, and gay waiters in Austin? The working class is not just white. White rural people are not the only ones who voted in November. Young white people are not the only people who voted in the Democratic primary.
The unfortunate conclusion I have to draw from the lopsided election coverage is that the mainstream media is uninterested in the stories of people who are not white. American newsrooms are overwhelmingly white and majority male. 86-88% of American mainstream media journalists are white. We have an epidemic of white journalists who fail to adequately cover Americans who don’t share their skin color. The mainstream media’s obsession with white voters, particularly young and rural ones, led to skewed election coverage and erasure of millions of Americans. The majority of American voters didn’t get the President they voted for. It is a tragedy that our media doesn’t even bother to find out how they’re doing.
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