The British media and Trump

Did UK newspapers cover Donald Trump differently in 2015 than did US newspapers?

By Maurits van der Veen in US politics word clouds

February 2, 2016

The view from across the pond

How do other countries view Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? Working with a complete set of all articles published in 2015 by The Guardian and its sister publication The Observer, I recreated the same two analyses as in the previous two blog posts (word clouds, word associations).

Together, the two papers published more than one and a half times as many articles as The New York Times in 2015, but not surprisingly fewer of these articles were about the U.S. presidential campaign. Only 0.14% of all sentences contained one or more names of the top Republican contenders (the ratio for the NYT was four times higher).

Still, given the unusual nature of Trump’s candidacy, he received plenty of coverage: 2604 sentences contained his name and no names of other top candidates. This is the set of sentences I use here. A further 3942 sentences mentioned one or more of the other candidates but not Trump.

Note: A considerable fraction of the articles analyzed here appear to be online-only articles. It is possible to filter these out, but since I’m interested in overall coverage of Trump, not just printed coverage, I decided to leave them in.

For the first analysis, I once again identified those words that disproportionately appear in sentences about Trump (as compared to sentences about the other Republican candidates). The table below shows the top 50 such words in The Guardian/Observer, side-by-side with the same list for the New York Times.

The Guardian/Observer The New York Times
hateful, disinvite, schlonged, dirty, exults, jerk, swallows, radicalised, reverberate, magnate, venue, low-rent, nation-building, disablism, generator, pairings, bloody, dumbest, wealth, passport, retweets, riding, laugh, pageant, wore, universe, laughter, rapists, fascist, idiocy, register, appreciate, wind, developer, petition, elephant, incoherent, courses, sketches, troll, eccentric, offline, outburst, bald, monster, carnival, outcry, throws, enltrwow, xenophobic wherever, licensing, pageant, vulgar, gates, pageants, contestants, helicopter, slobs, anti-immigrant, protester, apprentice, golf, rapists, disgusting, mosques, realdonaldtrump, ministers, outlets, towers, hell, dealers, stone, pigs, celebrity, anchor, offended, signatures, sexist, stupid, plaque, incendiary, insulting, mogul, third-party, hatred, universe, courses, pollsters, pen, insults, petition, outsize, deposition, tweets, afraid, database, bigotry, murderers, deporting

As was the case for the NYT, about one quarter of the top words in the Guardian are markedly negative. However, the lists are quite distinct (in fact there is an overlap of just 5 words). Where the American coverage appears more focused on specific, often personal insults/statements by Trump (slobs, pigs, sexist, stupid), the British paper’s words indicate a greater emphasis on Trump’s overall ideology (or lack thereof): fascist, xenophobic, incoherent.

Note: ‘enltrWow’ represents an attempt at rendering a Tweet whose text begins ‘Wow’. Some of the online articles in the Guardian report Tweets made by prominent people in reaction to the news. It appears Trump elicits many such reactions.

Next, I generated word clouds from the sentences about Trump, keeping only those words that appeared in them at least twice as often as in other sentences. The table below compares the result to the same set-up in the U.S. case.

The Guardian/Observer The New York Times
Guardian word cloud NYT word cloud

Trump’s frontrunner status in a succession of polls is clearly one of the most salient issues to The Guardian. They are also more focused on his wealth than is the NYT, with both mogul and billionaire quite prominent. Finally, as with the word lists above, the British paper emphasizes ideological aspects more, with racist and xenophobia boths howing up, along with bigotry (in small print on the right).

It will be interesting to see whether and how coverage changes in both papers as the presidential campaigns enter the primary stages.

Posted on:
February 2, 2016
3 minute read, 602 words
US politics word clouds
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