In this Report, we analyze 2020 coverage of six significant American racial, ethnic, or religious groups: African Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Latinos, Jews, and Muslims. Latinos and African Americans are the largest of these groups, constituting approximately 19% and 13% of the US population, respectively. Asian Americans are the next most numerous, at roughly 6%. Native Americans, Jews, and Muslims each make up approximately 1-2% of the American population.
We address key questions about media coverage of these groups: Are some mentioned more frequently in US newspapers than others? How positive or negative is coverage of these groups, and why? How does 2020 compare to earlier years in terms of the amount and tone of coverage? What themes are present in the reporting of all six groups, and which were distinctive to each in 2020?
In brief, our analyses show that coverage of African Americans stands out as being the most frequent and that of Muslims as the most negative, both by a wide margin.
African American articles spiked in 2020 principally in the aftermath of the May 25 homicide of George Floyd, a signal event that rippled through coverage of almost all groups as the country grappled with longstanding issues of racism and police brutality. Overall article counts also jumped by notable margins for Asian Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, not only given discussions about racism but also because of the inequalities associated with the coronavirus pandemic as well as stories about politics in the run-up to the November election.
Muslim articles were strongly negative largely in light of heavy reporting on foreign conflict zones, where war and extremism are common topics of coverage. Articles mentioning Jews three or more times were more negative than those touching on the group in passing, partly because of foreign coverage, but also given anti-Semitic attacks and discussions about the Holocaust.