How Mainstream Media Underestimated Democrats in the Midterms

by | Nov 10, 2022 | Commentary

In the final few weeks leading up to the 2022 midterm elections, mainstream media confidently predicted a “shellacking” of Democratic candidates, propping up Republicans as “emboldened” and forecasting a “big midterm triumph” in their favor. Corporate media seemed all too happy to propagate the idea that a ‘Red Wave’ was imminently approaching the U.S., likely to deal major damage to the “scrambling” Democratic party.

Yet, despite the predicted surety of Republican victories, Democratic candidates outperformed expectations in much of the country. In one of the most closely watched Senate races, Pennsylvania Democrat John Fetterman beat his Trump-backed challenger, Dr. Mehmet Oz, flipping a key seat from red to blue. Prominent Republican incumbent Lauren Boebert additionally is poised to lose her Congressional seat in Colorado after only serving one term.

It is important to note that these ‘Beltway journalists’ were stoking fires that the polling data couldn’t fuel. Writing for Daily Kos, Kerry Eleveld asserted that “the level of disconnect between what the data was indicating and what the media was selling was astounding. The New York Times epitomized that mind-bending divide when it released its final four House polls with a lede reading like a dirge for Democrats.”

While the data from polls conducted by reputable outlets consistently indicated a close race with no clear winners, mainstream media seemed bent on pushing the narrative that an easy victory was within reach for the GOP.

“If [pundits, analysts, and reporters] had more boldly and honestly declared their own uncertainty, the body of work they produced would have looked far less one-sided—dare I say, biased—in the wrong the direction,” argues Kerry Eleveld.

Although no one could accurately predict the exact outcomes of the elections, it appeared that esteemed outlets like the New York Times and The Washington Post had already settled upon a ‘Red Wave’ prognosis for the country and ignored any data that spoke to the contrary.

This habit seemed to carry on into post-election reporting, with the Times, in the words of journalist Ashton Pittman, “clinging to their predetermined narrative.” The results of the 2022 midterms represent a major success for Biden but mainstream news organizations continue to spin it as a loss for the president and the Democratic party as a whole.

In this wake of these fumbled predictions, it is clear that respected and widely consumed mainstream news outlets require an examination into their biased reporting. Why is it that reporters for major news organizations were so determined to push a Republican victory narrative despite polling that indicated otherwise? This inability for papers like the Times to own up to their erroneous pre-election reporting suggests a shift from ‘objective,’ centrist content to more right-leaning reporting.


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