Sentiment Analysis Reveals Media Coverage Of COVID-19 Deaths Growing 'Neutral' Even As They Climb

An analysis of 665,000 U.S.-based news stories covering the COVID-19 pandemic finds that the sentiment toward the pandemic has become increasingly neutral, even as the number of deaths among U.S. citizens continues to grow.

The finding, part of a tracking study conducted by, suggests Americans are growing inured, if not apathetic, to one of the greatest peace-time losses of life in U.S. history.
Specifically, media sentiment started off negative around -0.2, but then moved to be more neutral -0.15, according to
While this may seem like a small change, but each sentiment data point represents sentiment from 5,600 unique news stories. 
The study finds there was a "marked decline in sentiment" beginning in August as the death rate accelerated.



How to interpret this graph:

  • The grey area represents 665,000 US news articles, plotted weekly over time that mention either of the words: "covid" or "coronavirus" or "pandemic" in the headline.
  • The red area represents 200,000 US COVID deaths, plotted weekly over time.
  • The headline and snippet of a random sample of 30% of all news articles (200,000) were scored for positive or negative sentiment (on a scale of +1 to -1), the blue line represents the average story sentiment over time.
  • The data can be visualized over time on a daily, weekly or monthly basis see examples below. The weekly visualization is probably the best since it has good granularity while also smoothing out the within week variability (e.g. weekends).
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