Is the Media Indifferent to Voter Suppression?

election integrity
Photo credit: WhoWhatWhy

The midterms are a week away, and both political parties are trying to turn out their respective bases.

Amid a growing effort to restrict voter turnout for certain demographics (such as African Americans in Georgia, Native Americans in North Dakota, and Latinos in Kansas), many Americans may face difficulty casting a ballot come Election Day.

Given the voter suppression backdrop, it was surprising to see new polling by the Pew Research Center today. Pew reports that, among likely voters, 84 percent expect that voting will be easy (with 44 percent even saying that it will be “very easy”), while only a small minority of respondents (15 percent) believe that voting will be “at least somewhat difficult.”

Of the 15 percent who expect some difficulty voting, most point to factors such as the choice of candidate and the divisive political landscape. Issues relating to voter suppression, such as lack of polling places or long wait times, polled at a mere 3 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

Why isn’t the public more aware of the dangers of voter suppression? One possible reason is that the many problems voters face have received minimal attention from the media.

Andrew Tyndall (of The Tyndall Report) offered a theory to the Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan about why network news coverage has not focused on voter suppression:

“The network news divisions have not worked out how to cover politics without following the agenda set by President Trump. That’s not to say their coverage is pro-Trump, since they will use his agenda to present him in both a positive and negative light. But it does mean that they find it difficult to present politics as being about anything except him.”

The Tyndall Report found that the three major networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS) combined have aired fewer than ten voting-rights stories since Labor Day. More than five million Americans watch the evening news on network television.

This isn’t to say that reporting on voting rights isn’t happening at all. But those who consume their news primarily from these broadcasts may be unaware of the threat of voter suppression.

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