A new poll released Thursday found that Sen. Bernie Sanders is leading the 2020 Democratic presidential field in California—but you wouldn’t have known it by reading the Los Angeles Times‘ original headline on the survey, which mentioned Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Joe Biden, but not the senator from Vermont.
“Warren and Biden lose ground in California’s shifting 2020 Democratic race,” read the newspaper’s initial headline which, in the face of backlash, was later changed to, “Warren and Biden lose ground, Sanders moves ahead in California’s shifting 2020 Democratic race.”
While the Times changed its headline, it did not alter the body of the story, which doesn’t mention Sanders until the third paragraph.
“The Democratic presidential contest in California remains extremely fluid—but not enough, at least so far, to provide an opening for Michael Bloomberg,” reads the story’s lede paragraph.
The poll, conducted for the Times by the U.C. Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, found that Sanders is leading the California presidential primary race at 24% support and has gained 5% since September.
Warren polled in second place at 22% (down 7% since September), Biden in third at 14% (down 6% since September), and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg in fourth at 12% (up 6% since September). The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 4%.
Here are the results of this poll:— Ari Rabin-Havt (@AriRabinHavt) December 5, 2019
Now look at the headline.
It takes the LA Times three paragraphs to mention who is leading.https://t.co/f6J9JFEsZa pic.twitter.com/gi1hw0KN8M
“The person who gained ground is not allowed to be in the headline,” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’ campaign manager, tweeted in response to the Times original headline.
Despite Sanders’ jump since September, the Times framed the survey solely around Warren and Biden’s fall.
“That erosion has benefited Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who narrowly tops the primary field,” the Times reported.
The new survey, the Times noted, also found that Sanders is leading 2020 Democratic field in California “on three other attributes—being the candidate who would bring the right kind of change to Washington (28%), the one who comes closest to sharing voters’ values (27%) and the candidate who best understands the problems of ‘people like you’ (28%).”
The newspaper’s treatment of Sanders on this poll was for many observers just the latest example of a trend by many mainstream outlets of ignoring, sidelining, or otherwise downplaying the Sanders presidential campaign—a phenomenon some refer to as the #BernieBlackout.