Eleven months ago, America looked forward to turning the page on the pandemic-dominated volatility of 2020, only to be immediately rocked by an insurrection in the first days of the new year. Two weeks later came a presidential inauguration. Fittingly, Morning Consult’s two most-read stories of 2021 were pieces that touched on those January milestones.
News of President Joe Biden’s first approval rating in office — which, at 56 percent, was higher than former President Donald Trump ever achieved in his four years in the White House — sparked the most reader interest this year. Not far behind, however, was the story of Trump’s sinking approval among Republicans in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Political polling stories fared well across the board with readers, as did articles that addressed more policy-oriented debates in Washington. On the finance beat especially, public opinion pieces on lawmakers’ coronavirus stimulus and infrastructure negotiations dominated the year.
COVID-19’s impact was felt on every Morning Consult beat — especially in health, where a piece about the effect that Fox News personalities had on vaccine hesitancy among the channel’s viewers came out on top for the year.
In a sea of Meghan and Harry news, the entertainment story that resonated most with readers was about the impact — or lack thereof — that celebrity influencers had on vaccine willingness. In sports, the cryptocurrency and NFT boom garnered substantial interest — just not as much as a story on the comfort people felt in returning to normal activities like sporting events.
On the tech beat, a handful of stories related to Jan. 6 were noteworthy to readers, including one on the fallout of Trump’s ban from social media platforms and another on the post-riot beliefs of QAnon followers.
The brands beat, meanwhile, was led by a public opinion piece on the wildly unimportant debate over Potato Head (née Mr.), while readers of the energy vertical sought to zoom past 2021 to a future of electric vehicles and decommissioned coal sites.
Here’s a look at the top five most-read stories in 2021 from each of Morning Consult’s verticals: