Study: Media coverage favored Obama at end of presidential race


Kramer Phillips

A new study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that media coverage favored Obama in the final days of the campaign. According to the accompanying report, Mr. Obama “enjoyed his most positive run of news coverage in months” during the final week of the 2012 presidential campaign. The president only experienced more positive coverage, the study notes, during the week of his nominating convention.

According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the positive media coverage was linked to President Obama’s improving opinion polls, electoral math and positive reaction to Obama’s handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Sandy, the study notes, may have reduced the amount of attention concentrated on Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in the waning weeks of the election.

Positive stories about President Obama outnumbered negatives ones by 10 percentage points during the final week of the campaign (29 percent to 19 percent). The study reveals that a week earlier negative stories about the president had outnumbered positive stories by 13 percentage points.

The study also notes that in the final week of the campaign, the media coverage of the former Massachusetts governor remained mostly unchanged from the previous two weeks of the campaign. Negative stories outnumbered positive stories by 17 percentage points (33 percent to 16 percent).

The Project for Excellence in Journalism says that the levels of coverage for Governor Romney compared to President Obama dropped in the final days of the campaign. The study notes that eight of 10 campaign stories focused on President Obama while six in 10 focused on Mr. Romney.

Also fascinating is the fact that that the study reveals that Fox News and MSNBC became “even more extreme in how they differed from the rest of the press” in media coverage of the two presidential candidates. Fox News’ negative coverage of the president, for example, increased from 47 percent in the first four weeks of October to 56 percent in the first week of November. Positive coverage of Mr. Romney jumped up by 8 percentage points (34 percent to 42 percent).

MSNBC’s positive coverage of the president, on the other hand, rose from 33 percent during the month of October to 51 percent during the final week. The network’s negative coverage of Mr. Romney jumped up from 57 percent to 68 percent.

Critics of the mainstream media frequently called out the various television networks for criticizing one candidate while praising the other. The mainstream media was also slammed for failing to give adequate time to political candidates during the primary debates.

Throughout the Republican primary race, supporters of former Republican presidential candidate and Texas Congressman Ron Paul made the argument that the mainstream media ignored their candidate. In fact, Mr. Paul himself was a critic of the mainstream media for “understating” his success.

“The mainstream media got the Super Tuesday story wrong. Very wrong. Again,” a mailer from the Paul campaign said in March. “I’m sure you heard them gleefully talk about which establishment candidate ‘won’ which primary or caucus Tuesday night, if you were even watching.

President Obama and his campaign team, on the other hand, probably had few, if any, negative assessments of media coverage as the president defeated Governor Romney on November 6 with 332 electoral votes to his challenger’s 206.

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A new study finds that media coverage favored President Obama at the end of the campaign.

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