Thursday, October 23, 2008

Project for Excellence in Journalism on Campaign Coverage

Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) released a report on the tone of campaign coverage by the media. The whole thing's interesting, here are some highlights:

1. Obama's press coverage is twice as positive as McCain's, McCain's coverage is twice as negative. Obama: 36/35/29 positive/neutral/negative. McCain: 14/29/57.

2. Obama enjoyed 50% more coverage before the conventions, since then McCain/Palin has surpassed him. "You ignored my poverty tour!" indeed.

3. Coverage reflects poll performance. The PEJ model: Reporters first cover speeches straightforwardly, with an emphasis on gaffes, then switch to "how's it playing", creating an echo chamber.

4. McCain's negative coverage has recently blossomed, ramping from 32% negative Sept. 8-14 to 69% negative Oct. 12-16. Obama's coverage was more volatile. A 45% negative spike around Oct. 6-10 coincided with the second presidential debate and the start of the Ayers attacks. He recovered to 50% positive/19% negative for the Oct. 12-16. This is not inconsistent with the story that the media recoiled in horror at the McCain camp's negativity, but there's also a correlation between McCain's negative coverage and the economic downturn.

5. As someone who thinks McCain's getting Gored, I found this funny:
Nor are these numbers different than what we have seen before. Obama’s numbers are similar to what we saw for John Kerry four years ago as he began rising in the polls, and McCain’s numbers are almost identical to what we saw eight years ago for Democrat Al Gore.
Obama gets more positive coverage than Bush did, by the way.

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