Media Gave Less Coverage to Young Kim Than Similarly Historic Democratic Peers

Young Kim
Young Kim / Getty Images
November 12, 2018

California Republican Young Kim, potentially the first Korean-American woman to be elected to Congress, received less media coverage in the run-up and follow-up to the 2018 election than similarly historic Democratic candidates.

A LexisNexis search finds Young Kim was mentioned in 1102 news stories in the past month. By contrast, New Mexico Democrats Debra Haaland and Kansas' Sharice Davids, the first Native-American women elected to Congress, received 1,637 and 2,236 mentions respectively over the same period. The first Muslim-American women elected to Congress, Minnesota's Ilhan Omar and Michigan's Rashida Tlaib, received 2,753 and 2,683 mentions respectively. New York's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman elected to Congress, received a whopping 4,083 mentions.

The trends holds up even when limiting results just to major world newspapers (such as the New York Times or the Guardian). Kim has received only 52 mentions in the past month in major publications, while Haaland has received 79, Omar has received 128, Davids has received 133, Tlalib has received 152, and Ocasio-Cortez has received 242.

It's important to note that some of the disparity can be explained by the fact that Kim has still not been declared the winner of her race, where she is currently holding a small lead over her Democratic opponent Gil Cisneros. The Washington Post's list of "historic firsts of the 2018 midterms," for example, notes that "This list will update if additional races are called." Kim may receive a new surge of coverage if she wins the race.

But even before Election Day, the Associated Press omitted Kim from their list of possible "barrier-breaking officeholders" while including the other five women. The Washington Post penned pieces about "How the Trump era gave us Congress’s first Muslim woman" and "Native American women candidates seek historic wins in November," but didn't run a profile about Kim or the historic nature of her race. Vox's midterm election widget allowed readers to track returns for "Historic races" and "Women 2018"; both lists excluded Kim.

Kim's numbers are even more surprising considering she had the benefit of being in a contested race close to a major city in the most populous state. Nearly a third of her mentions in major newspapers came from the Los Angeles Times (19), while a candidate in safe seat in a far-flung district like Rashida Tlaib received more mentions in the New York Times (21). (Ocasio-Cortez also benefited from disproportionate coverage from the New York press.)

When the media did cover Kim, they were less likely to stress the historic nature of her candidacy. Ninety percent and 80 percent of major newspaper stories about Omar and Tlaib, respectively, used the word "Muslim," and 97 percent and 89 percent about Haaland and Davids, respectively, used the words "Native" or "Indian." But only 52 percent of stories about Kim used the word "Korean," or even "Asian." On the other hand, only 34 percent of stories about Ocasio-Cortez used the word "youngest."

Published under: Young Kim