Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks to guests during a campaign stop at the Val Air Ballroom on November 25, 2019 in West Des Moines, Iowa. The 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses will take place on February 3, 2020, making it the first nominating contest for the Democratic Party in choosing their presidential candidate. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

New polls exclude Elizabeth Warren as supporters claim the media has "erased" her candidacy

"Elizabeth hasn't been getting the same kind of media coverage as candidates she outperformed," the campaign says


Igor Derysh
February 19, 2020 7:29PM (UTC)

Two new national polls excluded Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., fueling supporters who claim that the media has "erased" her candidacy.

A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll excluded Warren, who is third in the national delegate count, in its poll of hypothetical head-to-head matchups against President Donald Trump and other leading Democrats. A new Emerson poll also did not include Warren in its head-to-head matchups.

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The NBC/WSJ poll shows Warren in a virtual tie for second place with Bloomberg, former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg. The candidates trail Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who is well ahead with 27% support.

Warren was nevertheless excluded from the head-to-head polling, which show Sanders leading Bloomberg and Buttigieg by double-digits. It also finds Biden, Bloomberg, Sanders and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. — but not Buttigieg — ahead of Trump in key battleground states.

The Emerson poll shows Sanders as the only candidate leading Trump nationwide. However, it did not poll how Warren against the president.

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Both polls fueled ongoing allegations that Warren's candidacy has been "erased." 

"Warren is polling 5 points higher than Buttigieg and almost 10 points higher than Klobuchar in the national poll average," Democratic activist Adam Best tweeted. "She's beating both Biden and Bloomberg in delegates. Yet she's the one who keeps getting left out."

"Warren outperformed her polling in Iowa. She continues to poll better than Klobuchar or Buttigieg, and often Biden, in most states. She is 3rd in delegates," journalist David Atkins wrote. "But her campaign is being completely erased in the media and now even in polling. Where is Warren?"

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"It's one poll question. But the thing that is very clear from this is how much of a flashpoint it was for Warren's supporters, who were furious at what they said was a stark example of how the media has erased her candidacy," BuzzFeed News reporter Molly Hensley-Clancy added.

Peter Hart, whose firm conducted the NBC/WSJ poll, told Hensley-Clancy that the survey only had "space and time" for just five candidate match-ups.

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"Amy Klobuchar was selected as the fifth candidate. We have tested Warren earlier, and I suspect she will be part of the next testing," Hart said. "We want to know where the [voters] 'start' and what groups are moving toward them as they gain momentum."

Warren's supporters accused the media of trying to "erase" their candidate long before the latest polls as the Massachusetts Democrat saw her support evaporate after briefly surging to first place last fall.

"From the moment cable networks switched from her caucus night rally speech to Biden's, Warren has been virtually erased," Joan Walsh wrote in The Nation. "Cable news panels mention Warren only in passing, if at all . . . This despite the fact that Warren clearly beat the Democratic front-runner, Biden, and outperformed her numbers."

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Warren's campaign has made this complaint, too.

"Elizabeth hasn't been getting the same kind of media coverage as candidates she outperformed," a recent fundraising email cited by The New York Times read. "We can't count on the media to cover our campaign fairly, so we're taking our case directly to voters."

Warren supporter Matt Newton told the outlet that he believes "the media hasn't taken her seriously," because "she's a female candidate."

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But The Times noted that Warren ranks third in cable news coverage behind only Sanders and Biden, even though her poll numbers collapsed.

Jezebel's Esther Wang pushed back on the idea that Warren was being "erased," because she is a woman.

"The recent news coverage, as well as the gendered nature of the criticism leveled at Warren, have played less of a role than what should have been obvious from the start of her campaign: her lack of a clear lane in the crowded Democratic primary," Wang wrote, noting that Warren's attempt to "pitch herself as a unity candidate" drew criticism.

Sanders supporters pointed out that their candidate surged despite being "erased" in numerous polls, cable news segments and news headlines. A recent study by the progressive outlet In These Times found that "Sanders received not only the least total coverage (less than one-third of Biden's) but the most negative."

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Sanders campaign manager Faiz Shakir called out the media over its coverage during an interview with Vanity Fair.

"It's been a struggle to change the tone and the tenor of the coverage that we receive," he said. "They've been among the last to acknowledge that Bernie Sanders' path to the nomination is real, and even when it's become real, they frequently discount it."

Shakir said MSNBC's coverage was "actively damaging" the campaign, claiming that even Fox News is "more fair than MSNBC."

"That's saying something," he said. "Fox is often yelling about Bernie Sanders' socialism, but they're still giving our campaign the opportunity to make our case in a fair manner, unlike MSNBC, which has credibility with the left and is constantly undermining the Bernie Sanders campaign."

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It is unclear what effect the media coverage of both Warren and Sanders, or their campaigns' complaints about the media coverage for that matter, have had on the race. One New Hampshire voter told MSNBC that its negative coverage of Sanders prompted her to vote for the Vermont senator.

"I want to say, the reason I went for Bernie is MSNBC," the voter told host Ari Melber. "The kind of 'Stop Bernie' cynicism that I heard from a number of people . . . It made me angry. So I said, 'Bernie's got my vote.'"


Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is a staff writer at Salon. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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