Trump’s Rigged System


Written by Micah Clark

The media’s impact upon society has always interested me.  I think the media has enormous power shaping public opinion and they take great pride in that power.  There seems to be little doubt that the former reality TV star and businessman Donald Trump knows this too. He seems to have successfully tailored his rhetoric and campaign around it.

Recently, Donald Trump has really profited from claims of a rigged system, and he’s profited from the rigged system itself.  I believe that the claims of rigged elections has hurt Senator Cruz who merely read the rules and competed in states like Colorado and Wyoming where Trump chose not to.  Instead, Trump turned those losses into big PR victories by playing the victim.

While Trump has received (before yesterday) 37% of the vote from 35 state contests, he has received 48% of the convention delegates.  (The RNC has long had delegate rules that are weighted to help the front-runner in order to avoid a contested convention.)  In some of those states he also won in many caucuses “without primary votes” occurring. In some states he won all 100% of the delegates with just 40% of the vote. Yet, where he has really struck gold has been in his media coverage.

The Media Research Center has looked at the media coverage of this election.  Here is what Brent Bozell concludes:

“On the nightly network news on ABC, CBS, and NBC, Trump has far outpaced anyone else for attention. From last July through April 6, he’s drawn 1,228 minutes of air time, or 56 percent of the coverage of the Republican primary race. The other 16 have split the remaining 44 percent. His closest rival, Ted Cruz, has only been granted 269 minutes of air time, or 12 percent. That’s roughly a 5-1 disparity.  Even when Cruz or Kasich wins a state, the dominant story is Trump stumbling, not them winning. It’s Trump or virtually nothing. By design.

The media carnival for Trump was intense at the beginning, with the reality-TV star getting 71 percent of the coverage in both July and August last year. We’re late into the primaries and nothing’s changed.  As the field shrunk to three in March, Trump surged again with 72 percent of the coverage. Trump was given 267 minutes of airtime to just 52 for Ted Cruz (14 percent) and a mere 18 for John Kasich (4.8 percent).  

Even in the first week of April, as Cruz won Wisconsin, Trump drew 74.5 percent of the news minutes. Overall, Trump has received more than four times as much coverage as Cruz, and 26 times more than Kasich. Fairness and balance? Forget about it.  Anyone who watches is aware that the network coverage is often negative, but it still denies air time to opponents.”

The Media Research Center also looked at cable news and found that interview time with Trump or his surrogates far exceeded his competitors.  They found that Fox News was actually more out of balance than CNN.  While Trump dominated on both stations, Fox was much more loaded toward Trump coverage.  Fox gave nearly 60% of their interview time to Trump or his surrogates compared with just 25% for Cruz and 16% for Kasich.

If “the system is rigged,” it sure doesn’t seem to be hurting the GOP’s front-runner as some insist.  It also seems that those candidates who could arguably complain about disparities the most, aren’t.   I suspect that Trump’s media advantage will change dramatically when (if) the race comes down to he and Hillary Clinton in the fall.

This is clearly one of the oddest election cycles I have ever seen.  Many have asked us about how to make sense of various races.