A new Pew survey of news coverage during the primary season found that President Obama has gotten the least positive coverage of the major party presidential candidates. The two candidates that got the most? Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.
Mitt Romney needed 15 weeks once the primary contests began to gain a secure hold over his party’s nomination for president. But he emerged as the conclusive winner in the media narrative about the race six weeks earlier, following a narrow win in his native state, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism that examines in detail the media’s coverage of the race.
After Romney’s tight victory in the Michigan primary on Feb. 28, news coverage about his candidacy became measurably more favorable and the portrayal of his rivals—particularly Rick Santorum—began to become more negative and to shrink in volume…
A look inside the coverage also reveals that Romney endured more media “vetting” of his record and personal character than the other Republican contenders. Since November, just over 12% of the coverage in which Romney was a significant figure was devoted to those subjects. The press focused in particular on his wealth and his experience at the private equity investment firm Bain Capital.
A similar percentage of the coverage of Newt Gingrich also involved vetting his record and personal life (just under 12%), but he received only about half as much campaign coverage generally as Romney.
Adam Serwer has more details and one particularly interesting find:
The Liberal Media has consistently given more positive coverage to likely Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney compared to President Barack Obama, according to a new survey of media coverage from the Pew Research Center’s Excellence in Journalism Project.
During the early weeks of 2012, Romney’s media coverage was slightly negative—between January 2 and February 26, 33 percent of the stories about the ex-Massachusetts governor were positive and 37 percent were negative, according to Pew’s analysis. But Romney has received mostly positive coverage since then (47 percent positive to 24 percent negative). By contrast, according to the report, President Barack Obama “did not have a single week in 2012 when positive coverage exceeded negative coverage.”
One could argue that the media’s tone on Obama was consistently negative for objective reasons—the state of the economy, for example, or Americans’ disagreement with the president’s foreign policy. But the negative coverage of Obama hasn’t been particularly substantive—only 18 percent of coverage of Obama has been on domestic issues, with two percent on foreign issues. The vast majority of coverage, sixty-three percent, has been focused on “strategy,” often the journalistic equivalent of empty calories. It’s not as though the negative coverage has been driven by say, drone strikes in Yemen or inadequate responses to foreclosure fraud. Coverage of Romney, while more positive overall, was even more (74 percent) focused on “strategy.” This is actually an improvement over 2008, since according to Pew, the media was even more preoccupied with horse-race coverage during that campaign.
This is the real problem with the media, especially during election years when they essentially turn into sports reporters, concerned only about the score. Very little of the coverage of any of the candidates was primarily substantive. Can you remember the last time President Obama was asked about his constant use of the State Secrets Privilege? I can. It was in 2009.