What are voters paying attention to amidst the issues the media covers and fails to cover?

By Ayushi Jain

Agenda-setting theory is the concept that the media influences what the public perceives as important. In turn, what the public perceives as important influences lawmakers.

In the past week, the media has covered several stories on the Democratic candidates. At first glance, search results for each of the presidential candidates and how they compare to related news stories are fascinating.

The search results on the presidential candidates can be summarized as follows:

  • Bernie Sanders ‑ His momentum and potential to be the nominee excites young supporters and worries some Democrats, painting Sanders to be a rather divisive candidate despite his recent campaign success. He is the front-runner. However many Sanders supporters think that the media has unfairly represented him and neglected to cover him as such.
  • Pete Buttigieg ‑ His health care plan, pro-abortion views and his response to Rush Limbaugh’s homophobia are currently in news and media’s spotlight. The week after receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom during the State of the Union, Limbaugh suggested that, on a debate stage with Donald Trump, Buttigieg would not look masculine on because he “loves to kiss his husband on the debate stage.” Limbaugh’s comment is a tool that the Democratic party could use to highlight that it wants Buttigieg’s sexuality to be debated in hopes of increasing support for Trump.
  • Joe Biden ‑ Trump’s attacks on the Bidens, Michael Bloomberg replacing Biden, a possible comeback or revival and a currently struggling campaign indicate the tumult and ambivalence towards his campaign.
  • Elizabeth Warren ‑ The search results on Elizabeth Warren have a similar tone to those of Biden in that she is falling flat. Other articles related to her are SWAT team deployment to sanctuary cities, private jet travel and her views on Bloomberg. These search results are quite surprising as these two candidates were previously seen as being in the top three, and Sanders is the only one remaining in that trio.
  • Amy Klobuchar ‑ Articles on Amy Klobuchar pertain to her fundraisers, praise for her successful and developing campaign so far and her inability to name Mexico’s president in a recent interview. In general, she has consistently done well, and her recent ascent to third place has been pivotal. Some argue that she is the only candidate who can take on Donald Trump on a debate stage.
  • Lastly, a search on Michael Bloomberg returns articles about his ads, donations and endorsements, and his record of crude comments, including comments about the stop-and-frisk policy and farming not requiring intelligence. Despite not being in the debates, it feels as though Bloomberg has received more media coverage than Sanders.

These search results not only show information about the candidates; they also illustrate the divided and disorganized state of politics, as well as what the American public thinks of the candidates. If these are the top and/or most accessible articles, what are the American people paying attention to amidst the wide array of issues that are and are not covered? Will the varying stories result in divided attention and a lack of emphasis on “important” issues? What is deemed as important?

The presidential campaign race has resulted in a series of surprises thus far, and I believe there are more to come, especially through the distribution of media coverage.

Ayushi Jain is a student in a Media and Democracy class at St. Bonaventure University.

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