Casual observers of recent media coverage would reasonably conclude that the Hillary Clinton campaign is in serious trouble. Headlines across news sources allege her falling poll numbers and once secure spot of the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. But a closer inspection of the most recent poll by Quinnipiac University that has spawned the headlines "Hillary slips, Trump rises in national poll" and "Hillary Clinton Hits Lows on Favorability, Trustworthiness in new poll," among hundreds of others, reveals a very different story--Hillary Clinton's position is strong and her opponents are the ones who are in trouble.
Here is what the poll really shows about Clinton:
1. She wins the Democratic nomination handily: Clinton beats Sanders by a whopping 23 points (45 percent vs. 22 percent) and Biden by 27 points. For all the talk of Sanders' surge and Biden's popularity, Democratic voters overwhelmingly favor Clinton as their nominee.
2. She beats the Republicans: Clinton tops Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Donald Trump in head-to-head match-ups. Curiously, this result didn't even make it into Quinnipiac's press release narrative.
3. She wins demographic groups that are key to success in 2016: Journalists have made much of Biden's lead among Republican contenders, but a closer look at the data reveals that among key demographic groups that historically have decided elections, Clinton does better. This is especially true compared to Sanders, whose limited appeal to college-educated white men has been well-documented. For example, against Bush, Clinton claims 92 percent of the vote among African Americans, and 55 percent among Latinos. Biden only gets 84 percent of the African American vote, Sanders gets 79 percent. Less than half (49 percent) of Latinos prefer Sanders over Bush, a margin that would seriously hurt the Democrats' chance of winning the White House. Clinton also outperforms among younger voters compared to Biden and Sanders.
4. Everyone's favorability ratings are suffering: Clinton isn't the only one with net negative favorability scores--voters also have negative impressions of both Bush and Trump. Clinton is also more liked among members of her Party (76 percent of Democrats give her a positive rating) than Bush and Trump among Republicans (59 percent favorable).
5. She is seen as a stronger leader than both Sanders and Biden: Lost in the buzz about her trustworthiness scores is an arguably even more important score--leadership qualities. A majority of voters (57 percent) say Clinton has strong leadership qualities compared to 35 percent who say the same about Sanders and 46 percent about Biden. The Clinton campaign still has time to improve Clinton's image when it comes to perceptions of honesty, but leadership qualities and experience are different--either you have them or you don't. Biden and Sanders aren't going to be able to fake the impressive resume and qualifications that Clinton has. This may be why that although the media has emphasized the negative words voters associate with Clinton, words like "experience" and "strong" top the list too.
As political consultant Peter D. Rosenstein said of this poll and others: "Any candidate seeing numbers like Hillary has in those polls would be opening champagne and their opponents would be figuring out what they are doing wrong." So why, then, does the media report otherwise?
I'm not the first to notice the media's biased, even sometimes downright inaccurate coverage of Hillary Clinton. Journalists seem almost gleeful in their framing of Clinton's "fall." And I would be remiss not to mention how the idea of women like Hillary Clinton, who unabashedly seek power, make people uncomfortable, and sometimes angry.
The media's power to set the agenda and frame issues is a powerful one, because it influences the public's attitudes and political choices. Journalists have a choice in what they cover and how they cover it, and in this instance, many chose to focus on Clinton's vulnerability. But as now should be clear, that's not the whole story, and effectively this kind of journalism disservices the public. We rely on the news media for political information, and while in any process conducted by human beings, some level of bias is inevitable, the coverage of Clinton is more than just biased, it's downright irresponsible.