REPORT: As Pain From Spending Cuts Grows, Media Coverage Drops

Media coverage of the automatic spending cuts commonly known as sequestration has tapered off since the policies went into effect on March 1. This drop in coverage comes as more Americans report having personally felt the effects of the cuts.

More Americans Report Being Personally Affected By Spending Cuts

New Poll Reveals 37 Percent Of Americans Feel Negative Impact From Sequestration. A May 24 ABC News/Washington Post poll showed 37 percent of Americans reported feeling the effects of sequestration, up 12 percentage points from a poll conducted in March. From the poll:

Thirty-seven percent in the latest ABC News/ Washington Post poll say they've been negatively impacted by the budget cuts, up from 25 percent in March. As previously, about half of those affected say the harm has been “major.” [ABC News/Washington Post, 5/24/13]

Poll Also Revealed Shift In Public Support For Cuts

Fifty-Six Percent Of Americans Now Disapprove Of Sequestration. The ABC News/Washington Post poll also revealed a sizeable and growing majority -- 56 percent -- opposed to the across the board spending cuts, a significant change compared to a March poll that showed the public supported sequestration by a nearly 2-to-1 ratio, at 61-33 percent. [ABC News/Washington Post, 5/24/13; ABC News/Washington Post, 3/6/13]

Media Coverage Of Spending Cuts Drops

Media Mentions Of Sequestration Fall. From March 4 to May 26, segments on broadcast and cable evening news mentioning the across the board spending cuts dropped precipitously. In the week of March 4 to March 10, 105 total segments mentioned sequestration, while during the week of May 20 to May 26, only seven segments mentioned sequestration.


Fluctuations In Sequestration Coverage Due To Major News Events. Changes in the data that deviate from the steady downward trend in media coverage of sequestration are largely due to major news events. During the week of April 15 to April 21, sequestration coverage dropped due to the focus on the April 15 Boston bombings. The spike in coverage during the week of April 22 to April 28 is due to media's focus on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) furloughs and ensuing airport delays.


Cuts To Vital Programs, Services Still Happening

Cuts Continue Across The Country Despite Public Opposition. As compiled by economist Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), cuts to programs such as Head Start, Meals on Wheels, Medicare-funded cancer treatments, USDA food inspection, public defense, and scientific and medical research are all either in effect or scheduled for the foreseeable future. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is preparing for employee furloughs throughout the summer, despite what is expected to be an active Atlantic hurricane season. [On The Economy, 5/22/13]


Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of transcripts of evening (defined as 5 p.m. through 11 p.m.) programs on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and network broadcast news from March 4 through May 26.  We identified and reviewed all segments using the following search terms: ((automatic or across the board or mandatory or forced) and (budget cuts or spending cuts)) or sequest!

The following programs were included in the data: World News with Diane Sawyer, This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Evening News (CBS), Face the Nation, Nightly News with Brian Williams, Meet the Press with David Gregory, Fox News Sunday, The Situation Room, Erin Burnett OutFront, Anderson Cooper 360, Piers Morgan Live, The Five, Special Report with Bret Baier, The O'Reilly Factor, Hannity, On the Record with Greta Van Susteren, Hardball with Chris Matthews, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton, All In with Chris Hayes, The Rachel Maddow Show, and The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell. For shows that air re-runs (such as Anderson Cooper 360 and Hardball with Chris Matthews), only the first airing was included in data retrieval.