Who Portrayed It as “The Chinese Virus”? An Analysis of the Multiplatform Partisan Framing in U.S. News Coverage About China in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Yiyan Zhang, Briana Trifiro


The emergence of social media as news sources has added another layer to news framing research. This study analyzes U.S. news coverage about China in the COVID-19 pandemic—an important issue because of the recently rising xenophobia and racism toward Asians—to explore how publishing platforms influence partisan framing in digital news. By conducting structural topic modeling (STM) analyses on website news and news tweets published by 27 major U.S. news media, this study examines how framing varied across media with different political orientations and whether publishing platforms moderate framing strategies. The results show support for differences across the spectrum of political orientation and between the two platforms. Conservative media tend to adopt more sensational and attitudinal frames compared to media that are more liberal. The gap between the two sides of the political spectrum was in general wider on Twitter than on news websites. Implications on media effects studies and activism against hate crimes are discussed.


framing theory, partisan framing, digital news, social media, health issue, foreign affairs, China, COVID-19

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