Jesse Goncalves

Faculty Mentor

Hannah Tracy, PhD

Faculty Editor

June Johnson Bube, PhD

Student Editor

Julia Borello


Did the mainstream American media exhibit bias in their coverage of Senator Bernie Sanders, the first major, self-proclaimed candidate for president since the early 1900s? The Sanders campaign and his supporters believed so, as is often the case with underdog candidates, but their concerns gained traction when echoed by the public editor of the New York Times. In this study, I sought to investigate the claims of bias in the coverage of Bernie Sanders, looking specifically for status quo bias, and an irrational preference to maintain the current state of affairs, as the bias has been identified in previous studies on journalism and defined in psychological literature. Of the 29 articles analyzed in this study, all published in four major newspapers throughout the week following the first Democratic presidential debate, 13 exhibited status quo bias. An in-depth analysis of five of these articles exhibits the ways an irrational preference to maintain the status quo, ranging from overt to subliminally rooted in journalistic principles, can manifest in election coverage. The media bias uncovered in this study could have major implications for the 2016 election cycle and any election featuring a revolutionary candidate, which may indicate the need for fundamental change in modern American journalism.