The 2016 presidential election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was watched by a total of 71 million people all across the country. Coverage on the country’s three main cable news networks (Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC) drew in 31.4 million of those viewers. While all those networks were covering the same race, the same states, and the same candidates, they didn’t all do it the same way, and they didn’t all do it at the same time.
On the night of any presidential election, cable news networks have access to much of the same data, including exit polls, votes by precinct and votes by county. Still, the order and the time that they make their state-by-state projections often differs. At any given moment during election night, the total electoral votes for a candidate can be different from one network to another.
The question this thesis set out to answer was: why is there difference between when cable news networks call each state, and subsequently the entire election in the race for president? To answer this question, research was broken into three different parts: cable news biases, the methodology behind how the cable news networks produce election night coverage, and finally, an analysis of the actual 2016 election night coverage of Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.
To visualize the analysis of the 2016 election coverage, all of the data collected was put into GIFs that showed minute by minute how the three cable networks called the election, from start to end. The GIFs included a map of the country, and a running total of electoral votes for each candidate.
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