On Tuesday November 8, Donald Trump, the Republican party’s nominee was elected president of the United States. Trump won with 47.3% of the popular vote and 290 electoral college votes. Clinton came out of the election with 47.8% of the popular vote however, only 232 electoral college votes.
The win shocked many Americans because media outlets had predicted that Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, would win by a landslide.
The New York Times predicted that Clinton had an 85 percent chance of winning the election, while Trump’s chance was only 15 percent. While the Huffington post said Clinton had whopping 98 percent chance of winning, while Trumps was a mere 1.7 percent.
How did the media get it so wrong?
The first possibility is “hidden Trump voters.” Many were embarrassed to answer on polls that they would be voting for Trump because of his numerous scandals. This means the polls that journalists and political analysts used to make predictions could have been completely inaccurate. News publications’ and political analysts’ should have questioned the polls and data they were using.
Jim Rutenberg, a New York Times writer, wrote about how inaccurate polls contributed to the media’s failure to predict Trump’s win.
“Journalists didn’t question the polling data when it confirmed their gut feeling that Mr. Trump could never in a million years pull it off,” Rutenberg said. “They portrayed Trump supporters who still believed he had a shot as being out of touch with reality. In the end, it was the other way around.”
Another reason is the media didn’t put Trump’s record to the scrutiny that other politicians receive. The media did cover Trump’s numerous scandals, which include but are not limited to, a rape accusation which he will be attending court for on December 18, sexual assault allegations from over 11 women and not releasing his tax returns. However, Trump’s scandals weren’t covered or treated on the same scale as other politicians. This is partly because of his celebrity reputation prior to the election, and the number of scandals that came out towards the end of the campaign, which weren’t covered as well as they could have been.
While the media didn’t cause Trump to win, their failure to show the reality of the election reveals deeper issues with today’s media. Journalists allowed their own opinions and refusal to see Trump as a serious candidate to influence their reporting, causing Americans to be misinformed.
NPR’s David Folkenflik shared his opinion on how the media has failed to be reliable.
“News organizations don’t need to be powerful, they need to fulfill their jobs,” Folkenflik said. “That involves informing, enlightening, illuminating, stimulating and entertaining their audiences. It also involves equipping their consumers with the knowledge and context they need to act as citizens…I’m not arguing the media should have acted as one to block Trump. I’m arguing the media largely failed.”
The failure on behalf of the media has created even more distrust between them and the American people. It is up to the media to report the truth and part of this responsibility includes fact checking the candidates and reporting on inaccuracies. However, the proliferation of media in the form of social media, live webcasts and media outlets devoted entirely to falsehoods in order to help elect their own candidate make it almost impossible for the uneducated viewer or reader to discern the differences.
As the media changes to meet the views of the audience it does a disservice to the American public and violates the rules of traditional journalism. Objectivity must be the first rule of journalism, and this means examining the candidates. In this case, we should call on the media to take a close look at their own methodologies to rebuild trust with the American public.