How news media covers
TRUMP & CLINTON

Analyzing 12,147 images of the candidates.

As election day approaches, all eyes are quite literally on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

The presidential election is the Super Bowl of news coverage, and social media is increasingly where people get their news. Bold headlines help get clicks, but images are the most effective way to grab a reader's attention as they scroll through endless feeds.

So just how much have Trump and Clinton seeped into our social media streams? I analyzed every Facebook post from the top 53 US news media organizations, published over the past two months, that feature an image and link to an article. Of the 115,000 posts, more than 12,000 have an image featuring one or both of the candidates. Let’s look at all of them.

Frequency of candidate posts

Percent of posts with an image of Trump, Clinton, or both candidates across all organizations.

About one in 10 posts feature an image of the major-party nominees. Trump appears more than twice as often than Clinton. Whether the news media is biased or not as he claims, they certainly love using his mug.

But when it comes to all the coverage, do readers actually care as much as the media wants them to? Although a recent survey shows that voters feel like they are seeing too much Trump, Facebook data seems to indicate otherwise.

Popularity compared to an average post

How much more posts featuring an image of Trump or Clinton get shared compared to the average post of that organization.

For the overwhelming majority of organizations, posts with images of either candidate get shared many more times than those without them. It’s also clear that readers prefer to share out stories featuring Trump over Clinton. While this does not come as a surprise based on the abundance of controversy Trump provides, it does confirm the fact that people actually like to read about him.

But what exactly are we seeing day in day out? Take a look for yourself, and see how it varies by organization.

Most popular post each day

Posts with an image of Trump, Clinton, or both candidates in the past month from the top 10 organizations (based on shares of an average post).

Not all news media organizations choose to cover the election the same way. So how does everyone stack up? Assuming that Facebook shares are a good indicator for site traffic, we can determine how important posts with a candidate’s image are to each organization.

Daily portion of shares

Percent of shares each day of posts with an image of a candidate.

Organization Candidate posts/day Avg. shares/post Portion of shares (Aug - Oct)

There are many different approaches to how much and how often to cover this election. Not only does the frequency vary, but so does the tone of the imagery itself. For example, more liberal-leaning organizations tend to use photos of Trump with an exaggerated and unflattering expression, while Clinton is generally seen smiling or neutral. Let’s take a look at the range of ways the more polarizing organizations promote their stories.

Despite all the media attention that Trump has garnered, there seems to be a growing self-awareness of the industry’s need to break the habit. Unless, that is, we get four years of him...

Methodology: News media organizations were selected by looking the Pew Research Center State of the News Media report. I filtered down the list by organizations with at least 250,000 Facebook likes, 10 posts per day, and 50 posts with images of the candidates.

Only posts with links and images to articles were considered. Posts were further filtered by if the headline or the Facebook post message had either of the candidate’s first or last name. They were then manually categorized as having an image of Trump, Clinton, or both candidates. Since I only looked at posts with names in the posts and excluded those without their images, there is likely even more coverage than described in this article.

Data via Facebook. Get in touch: russell@polygraph.cool or @codenberg.