We Have Her Back

Vice Presidential Announcement Media Analysis

As part of the We Have Her Back campaign, TIME’S UP Now commissioned Edelman Data & Intelligence to analyze media coverage of the announcement of VP candidate Kamala Harris in 2020 and compared it against the announcements of Mike Pence and Tim Kaine in 2016.

The data was clear: When women, and especially women of color, run for office, they are subjected to a double standard that has nothing to do with their qualifications and everything to do with this country’s history of sexism and racism.

Racism and sexism have no place in our society – period. And these issues go beyond this election cycle. The pervasiveness of sexism in our political and public discourse infects not only how we think about women running for public office, but also how we think about women leaders in every sector – as CEOs, as health care leaders, as front-line managers. And those become the messages our daughters – and sons – learn about the limitations of gender and race.

Read the summary of findings below.

Top Takeaways

  • The report found that one quarter of coverage of Sen. Harris included racist and sexist stereotyping and tropes, from misogynoir like the harmful ‘Angry Black Woman’ trope to the racist so-called “birther” conspiracy. And journalists rarely discussed Harris’ race or gender independently of each other.
  • President Trump’s attacks on Sen. Harris in 2020 have been much harsher than his attacks on Sen. Kaine were in 2016; what’s more, journalists and opinion makers not only amplified President Trump’s harsher descriptions of Sen. Harris — rooted in harmful “angry Black woman” tropes — but they also fueled widespread coverage of false and racist, so-called “birther” conspiracy theories.
  • Nearly two-thirds (61 percent) of analyzed coverage mentioned race or gender compared to just five percent of coverage for then-Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine. This shows that when white men are running for elected office, their identity is viewed as the “default” for leaders in our society and not considered an important factor when governing.
  • Adjectives to describe Sen. Harris skewed more negative than those used to characterize then-Gov. Mike Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine. While Sen. Harris was labeled with sexist and racist language, such as “nasty,” “extreme,” “phony,” and “mean,” then-Gov. Pence and Sen. Kaine were both portrayed as “safe” and “experienced” choices, if somewhat uninspiring.
  • Over one-third (36 percent) of media coverage focused on Sen. Harris’ ancestry — overshadowing her professional background and achievements. In contrast, under five percent of media reporting about then-Gov. Pence and Sen. Kaine related to the candidates’ ancestry or personal lives.