Mar 23, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Biden border crisis overtaking vaccine coverage

Volume of online stories about immigration and vaccines
Reproduced from Signal AI; Chart: Axios Visuals

The crisis at the border is beginning to take over the news cycle, pulling attention and coverage away from the COVID-19 vaccine.

The big picture: The crisis at the border has proven to be a prime post-Trump topic online, particularly for conservative media.

  • Nearly all (46) of the top 50 stories about the situation at the border in the last two weeks have come from conservative media, according to data from NewsWhip.
  • In March, Fox News has spent 5x more time covering the border than CNN and MSNBC, according to Stanford's TV Cable News Analyzer.

Details: In the past few weeks, the media has increased its coverage of immigration significantly, in some cases outpacing coverage of vaccines.

  • Mentions of articles discussing immigration among 100 of the most popular U.S. news sites surpassed mentions of articles discussing the vaccines, according to data from Signal AI, an AI-platform that measures article mentions.
  • “U.S. coverage for COVID-19 vaccines largely overshadowed immigration/border issues during December 2020 and January 2021," says Christos Fountas, Strategic Insights Analyst, Signal AI.
  • "However, news of Biden’s new rules for ICE caused a surge in coverage for immigration in early February 2021," he adds. "Coverage has continued to rise through February and March 2021, and is the highest it has ever been, largely driven by news on the ongoing migrant children crisis.

Be smart: The partisan nature of the border crisis is fueling engagement on social media broadly.

  • Stories about the border in the past two weeks have generated an average of 651 social media interactions, per NewsWhip.
  • By comparison, stories about vaccines have generated 182, the Atlanta spa shootings  generated 458 and Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have generated 594 interactions per article.

What to watch: The media has been struggling to get access to facilities housing migrant children. Lawmakers from both parties have begun urging the Biden administration to grant the press more access.

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