Biden leads newspaper endorsements — just like Clinton
Newspaper editorial boards across the country are favoring former Vice President Joe Biden over President Trump by a huge margin this year with their endorsements, with some of the most conservative papers in the country breaking precedent to back the Democrat.
At least 119 daily and weekly newspaper editorial boards have written formal endorsements of Biden so far. Among them are the Chicago Tribune and the New Hampshire Union Leader, two reliably conservative outlets that backed former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee, in 2016.
The Union Leader has not endorsed a Democratic candidate in a century.
“America faces many challenges and needs a president to build this country up. This appears to be outside of Mr. Trump’s skill set,” the Union Leader wrote in its editorial over the weekend. “Building this country up sits squarely within the skill set of Joseph Biden. We have found Mr. Biden to be a caring, compassionate and professional public servant.”
Trump has won endorsements from only six daily or weekly periodicals, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by the billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. Adelson and his wife have spent millions promoting Trump’s reelection bid.
“For all of Mr. Trump’s bluster and braggadocio, his domestic policy record has been quite traditional — and successful. Voters interested in accomplishments should take notice,” Adelson’s editorial board wrote.
Only two papers have switched their endorsements from one major party’s nominee to the other over the last four years. The Topeka Capital-Journal backed Biden four years after picking Trump. The Spokesman-Review, in Spokane, Wash., picked Trump after siding with Clinton.
“Donald Trump is a bully and a bigot. He is symptomatic of a widening partisan divide in the country. We recommend voting for him anyway because the policies that Joe Biden and his progressive supporters would impose on the nation would be worse,” the Spokesman-Review wrote.
The Capital-Journal, which backed Trump four years ago, is now under new management, after Morris Communications sold it to GateHouse Media in 2017.
“This newspaper endorsed President Trump in 2016. At the time, under different ownership and in different circumstances, we understood the risks. But it seemed as though Trump’s no-nonsense persona and business record could shake up Washington, D.C., for the better,” the new editors wrote. “The gamble didn’t work out.”
Fifteen papers that did not endorse a candidate in 2016 have come out for Biden this year. Just one, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has come off the sidelines for Trump. The Florida Times-Union, which backed Trump in 2016, decided against endorsing a candidate this year, citing editorial cutbacks.
Biden’s edge among the nation’s editorialists is similar to one enjoyed by Hillary Clinton in 2016, when she won support from 243 daily publications against only 20 that backed Trump; among the 100 largest papers by circulation, Clinton won 57 endorsements against Trump’s two.
That Trump won anyway suggests that the newspaper editorial no longer carries the clout it once did.
But some political scientists say the evidence still shows that newspapers can move votes — especially when endorsements cut against the grain, such as when The Dallas Morning News and the Arizona Republic, two traditionally conservative editorial boards, backed Clinton in 2016.
“Research has shown that newspaper endorsements are impactful, particularly if they come from an unexpected source,” said Jennifer Hoewe, a communications professor at Purdue University. “This year is an interesting one in that most voters had already made up their minds for the presidential race quite a while ago. Newspaper endorsements for other candidates, particularly ones that are less well known, then may be more impactful for voters this year. And this effect would be amplified if the endorsement is unexpected.”
Trump has so polarized national politics and culture, and even the coronavirus pandemic that has come to define the final year of his first term in office, that several outlets have broken precedent to back Biden.
“The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science,” Scientific American wrote in endorsing Biden, its first endorsement in its 175-year history.
Some editorial boards have employed stark language in describing the threat they see posed by a second Trump administration.
Trump “is a clear and continuing danger to the United States, and it does not seem likely that our country would be able to emerge whole from four more years of his misrule,” The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg wrote on behalf of his fellow editors.