Media coverage of the nationwide protests in response to the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police has dominated news coverage in recent weeks. So much so, in fact, it now threatens to unseat the COVID-19 outbreak as the most followed media item, which has consistently dominated the headlines in the past three months to become one of the most covered events in recent history.

According to analysis by the Pew Research Center, 42 percent of Americans claim they’re following the George Floyd protests fairly closely, the same percentage of those who said the same about the COVID-19 outbreak in late April. An additional 42 percent said they’re watching the demonstrations “very closely,” compared to 46 percent who said the same about the coronavirus pandemic.

Pew’s analysis found that most Americans hold positive views of the news media’s handling of the protests, with more than half (57 percent) saying news organizations have done a “good” or “excellent” job, compared with 42 percent of those who give the news media a “fair” or “poor” assessment.

Americans’ attention to news about the George Floyd protests is now on par with their attention to their COVID-19 outbreak
Americans’ attention to news about the George Floyd protests is now on par with their attention to their COVID-19 outbreak.

On the other hand, President Trump’s public handling of the protests received low marks. Six-in-ten of those surveyed (60 percent) believe Trump’s messaging in response to the protests has been wrong, including a little more than a third (39 percent) who believe it’s been completely wrong less than a quarter (21 percent) who think it’s been mostly wrong. Only 37 percent of U.S. respondents believe Trump’s message has been completely or mostly right.

Partisanship and race emerged as clear variables in influencing respondents’ evaluations of the media and President Trump’s handling of the protests. Among respondents identifying as white Democrats, for example, 76 percent believe the media has been doing a good or excellent job covering the protests, while 94 percent of this group said Trump’s message has been wrong. Most respondents identifying as white Republicans, on the other hand, think the media have been covering the protests only fairly or poorly (60 percent), while 76 percent of this demographic believe Trump’s message has been mostly or completely right.

Among black Americans, nearly three quarters (72 percent) believe the media’s coverage of the George Floyd Protests has been good or excellent. On the other hand, 85 percent of black Americans believe Trump's public message in response to the protests has been completely or mostly wrong.

The survey also discovered that two-thirds of Americans, including a majority of respondents across racial and ethnic groups, said they support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Pew’s analysis was based on a survey of nearly 10,100 U.S. adults conducted June 4-10. Findings were compiled as part of the nonpartisan think tank’s Election News Pathways project, an ongoing initiative that examines how Americans are getting their news in the months leading up to the 2020 election.