October 18, 2017

In Trump’s first 100 days, news stories citing his tweets were more likely to be negative

President Donald Trump’s prolific Twitter output has become source material for news outlets covering him – and during the early days of his administration, stories that included his tweets stood out from those that did not. They were more likely to have a negative assessment of the administration’s words and actions and to include a challenge by the journalist to something Trump or a member of his administration said, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of more than 3,000 stories across 24 media outlets.

A recent report from the Center found that about one-in-six news stories about the president or the administration (16%) during the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency included one of his tweets. Another element measured in the study was whether statements from the journalist or statements cited in a story gave an overall positive or negative evaluation of the Trump administration’s words or actions – or fell somewhere in between.

This deeper analysis reveals that the stories that included a direct tweet from Trump were more likely than others to have an overall negative assessment of him or his administration – that is, had at least twice as many negative as positive statements. Just over half of stories that had a tweet from Trump (54%) had a negative assessment, 12 percentage points higher than stories that did not contain any of his tweets (42%). (Overall, 44% of all stories studied during the time period studied gave a negative assessment.)

Additionally, stories with at least one of the president’s tweets were more likely to include a direct refutation by the reporter of something the president or a member of his administration said – whether it was a refutation of the tweet itself, a statement related to the issue referenced in the tweet or another statement altogether in the story. Overall, one-in-ten stories included a direct refutation. This jumps to about one-in-five stories with a Trump tweet (21%), more than double the share that did not contain one (8%).

Amid these differences between stories with and without the president’s tweets, there was one notable similarity: A large majority of both those with a tweet and those without one structured their coverage around character and leadership rather than policy. However, those with a tweet were even more likely to focus on the president’s leadership and character (85%) than those that did not (72%).

Note: Read more about the study’s methodology here.

Topics: Federal Government, U.S. Political Figures, News Media Ethics and Practices, Social Media, Donald Trump

  1. is a senior writer/editor focusing on journalism research at Pew Research Center.

  2. Photo of Jeffrey Gottfried

    is a senior researcher focusing on journalism research at Pew Research Center.