LONDON: The Duchess of Sussex gets more than twice as many negative headlines as positive ones, according to Guardian analysis of articles published between May 2018 and mid January 2019. The analysis – which appears to support Meghan’s argument that she has faced highly critical treatment in the British press – found that of the 843 articles in 14 print newspapers since mid-May 2018, 43% were negative. Just 20% of the articles were positive, with the remaining 36% remaining neutral.
Findings hinted that claims she receives significantly more critical treatment than the Duchess of Cambridge were correct. An equivalent search for headlines in which the Duchess of Cambridge was mentioned resulted in a fraction of the results but found that of just 144 headlines over the same time period, 45% of those about Kate were positive in tone, 47% neutral and just 8% negative.
The findings come as the couple plan their exit from the senior ranks of British royalty. Claims that their period of transition is soon to begin, backed by reports on Friday that staff at their Frogmore Cottage home were being reallocated. The statistical disparity in how the press treat the two duchesses echoes a Buzzfeed article which showed major differences in sentiment towards the two women on equivalent topics, ranging from their love for avocados to their tendency to put their hands on their bumps during pregnancy. It corroborates research by digital consumer intelligence company Brandwatch, which found that of 29,000 tabloid and broadsheet items online about the Duchess of Sussex in 2019, 21,000 were negative – or 72%.
Meanwhile, just 4,300 of 14,000 items referring to the Duchess of Cambridge were negative – 31%. A month-by-month breakdown shows that Meghan did receive more positive press than negative in May 2018 – the month she married Prince Harry – and in the month following.
However, her honeymoon period in terms of press coverage was short lived: by July of the same year the proportion of articles that painted her in a negative light outstripped the positive.
Negative spikes occurred on several occasions, particularly around the couple’s desire for privacy, especially their decision to keep details about their child’s birth and baptism private. This is when the couple were accused of wanting to have their cake and eat it too. A number of articles quoted sources claiming that Meghan was a boastful, self-obsessed celebrity who craved media attention, an accusation which intensified when she guest-edited an edition of British Vogue in September last year.
A number of the pieces associate Meghan and her family with drugs and violence. These include articles that make claims about her nephew’s involvement with drugs, as well as claims that guests were given “party bags” of cannabis at Meghan’s first wedding. Past coverage of her family has associated Meghan’s birthplace, and mother’s home town, with gang violence.
Other intense periods of negative press coverage included articles about the couple’s use of private jets and the duchess’s relationship with her father. The media returned to this topic time and again over the period covered by the analysis. Articles about her relationship with her father accounted for almost one third of the negative articles about the duchess.