Real Fake News: How Parts of the Media Misconstrued ‘Trump Disorder’ Research


It is always important in reporting and media to have a story that is being represented accurately. With skewed assumptions and loaded words, findings can be misinterpreted. In the light of the focus on “fake news” in the media and politics, it is especially important to be thorough in vetting and consuming research.

Recent media headlines, such as “Dems Lied About Mental Distress After 2016 Election to Make Trump Look Bad,” criticized the nature of a recent article in the special issue of SAGE Open that collected pieces from New York University’s Social Media and Political Participation Laboratory. These accounts — which characterized claims of suffering from the so-called “Trump Stress Disorder” (or “Trump Derangement Syndrome” from the president’s perspective) as an attack on any Trump supporter and opportunity to generalize about Democrats as a whole — demonstrate missed messages about the actual findings.

Trump mystery on science

The academic article “President Trump Stress Disorder: Partisanship, Ethnicity, and Expressive Reporting of Mental Distress After the 2016 Election,” written by Stanford University’s Masha Krupenkin and three others from Microsoft Research, got a lot of play – much it seemingly based on misreadings. The authors examined internet searches to see if these confirmed the reputed mental health effect of the election of Donald Trump had on parts of the progressive and Latino populations.

After analyzing searches from over 1 million Bing users before and after the 2016 presidential election, researchers found a significant difference between how mental health effects were expressed anecdotally (it’s been called a “folk” diagnosis) versus through online searches. They found that Democratic voters hadn’t changed the number of their searches in regards to mental health, while the Latino population had increased their searches for mental health and treatment for stress and anxiety after the election. Latino populations, however, were less likely to vocalize their struggle with these issues publicly, which could lead to under treatment or misdiagnosis within these populations.


Cameron Meek

Cameron meek, a corporate communications intern at SAGE Publishing, is an up and coming senior at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

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