The second Republican presidential debate of the 2024 campaign was held Wednesday night.
AllSides analyzed top stories from top news outlets across the political spectrum to identify trends and disparities in coverage, including types of media bias. Here’s what we found.
Overall, among 16 total outlets analyzed across the political spectrum, we found that outlets on the left mentioned former President Donald Trump and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy more, while outlets on the right mentioned former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie slightly more.
Outlets on the left also mentioned “Donald” more – Donald Trump was a big name of the night in news media, and Chris Christie calling the former President the nickname “Donald Duck” was mentioned sporadically by outlets on the left and right.
Like the first Republican debate, in which AllSides conducted a similar analysis, Donald Trump was the candidate mentioned most by outlets on the right and left. The former President and frontrunner GOP candidate was not present at the second debate and instead went to Michigan to speak in front of auto workers as UAW strikes continue.
On the left, the top three GOP candidates mentioned were Trump, DeSantis, and Ramaswamy. On the right, it was Trump, DeSantis, and Haley.
Unlike the first Republican presidential debate, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis – who generally polls in second place behind Donald Trump – received much more media attention. In our analysis of the first debate, Ron DeSantis was only mentioned 0.4% of the time* on both the left and right.
Vivek Ramaswamy dominated the news after the first Presidential debate, but didn’t quite hit the same mark after the second, especially for outlets on the right, which mentioned him only about 0.4% of the time in coverage compared to about 1.0% of the time* after the first debate.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who was present at the first debate but not the second due to missing donor and polling thresholds required to participate, was only mentioned once on the left and right. He also received the least amount of speaking time and least coverage following the first debate.
In terms of time spoken at the debate, Ron DeSantis led the pack with over 12 minutes of speaking time. This differed from his speaking time of about 10 minutes at the first debate, which put him as the fourth-most speaker.
On the other hand, former Vice President Mike Pence received the most amount of speaking time at the first debate – 12 minutes and 37 seconds – and received over three minutes less during the second debate.
North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum received the least amount of speaking time at the second debate; about seven and a half minutes.
What Outlets on the Left Said
Outlets on the left placed emphasis on how candidates did (or did not) address Trump’s absence on the debate stage. While Chris Christie accused Trump of ducking the debates, Desantis stated that Trump owes it to the people to defend his record and that he should be on the debate stage rather than missing in action.
In addition to covering Trump, several outlets on the left mentioned Haley’s comments, especially her back and forth with Ramaswamy over China and TikTok, which was a central part in the debate.
Some outlets on the left declared the winners and losers of the debate. MSNBC (Left bias) called Nikki Haley the winner for her “big moments” with comments directed at Ramaswamy on China and DeSantis on fracking and energy. MSNBC called DeSantis the loser, citing his low polling numbers compared to Trump and his comments on his school curriculum which included the line: “Slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” When he was pressed about this, DeSantis said, “They’re probably going to show that some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life.”
Vox (Left bias) also declared winners and losers, but contrary to MSNBC, it named the losers as Vivek Ramaswamy, the moderators, and Fox News. Vox said Ramaswamy sounded stale and his polling numbers were not as high as they needed to be, considering his breakout performance at the first debate. The moderators were trying to run a tight ship and often made their questions too narrow while Fox Business (Lean Right bias) was decreasing the price of ad slots due to lack of interest in the debate, Vox posited. The winner, it declared, was Donald Trump, who did not have to be present to take up room in the conversation.
What Outlets on the Right Said
The primary focus of articles on the right was Trump's absence and what both the candidates and Trump have said about his choosing not to appear on the debate stage.
Fox News (Right bias) did not mention the candidates' stances at all and instead gave time to Trump’s response to the candidates.
Beyond Trump, outlets on the Right focused on DeSantis, Christie, and Haley. Desantis’s comment about Trump being “MIA” and Christie’s about Trump ducking the debates, again, garnered attention, as did their policies on abortion in one Washington Examiner (Lean Right bias) article. The Daily Wire (Right bias) focused on Haley’s “explosion” on Ramaswamy over TikTok.
Breitbart (Right bias) mentioned frustration over Univision being a partner for the debate, saying that the candidates fielded too many questions that matter more to the left due to the partnership, such as gun violence, Obamacare, and amnesty for immigrants.
While both the left and right emphasized Trump’s influence on the debate, the right focused more on the debate structure compared to outlets on the left who looked more at the tone of the candidates.
None of the outlets on the right declared winners or losers of the debate.
In total, 16 outlets were analyzed. AllSides pulled the top article on each analyzed outlet’s homepage about the second Republican debate at 11:45pm ET on September 27, 2023, or approximately 45 minutes after the debate’s end. Articles that were live blogs or about a podcast were not included in the analysis, nor were stories that were published before the debate began at 9:00pm ET.
The outlets analyzed on the left were HuffPost (Left bias), MSNBC (Left bias), Vox (Left bias), The Daily Beast (Left bias), The Associated Press (Lean Left bias), NBC News (Lean Left bias), Politico (Lean Left bias), and NPR – Online News (Lean Left bias). The outlets analyzed on the right were Breitbart (Right bias), Fox News (Right bias), The Daily Wire (Right bias), The Blaze (Right bias), The Washington Times (Lean Right bias), The Epoch Times (Lean Right bias), The New York Post (Lean Right bias), and Washington Examiner (Lean Right bias).
In total, 9082 words were analyzed from outlets on the left and 4941 words were analyzed from outlets on the right. There are simply far more politically-focused, left-rated news sources than there are similar sources on the right, which is a key reason for the disparity in words analyzed. The word clouds and bar charts exclude embedded X posts (formerly Twitter).
*Some of the news media outlets analyzed after the second debate were different from the analysis from the first debate. Exercise comparing results with caution.
Reviewed by Johnathon Held, Bias Analyst (Lean Right bias).