Maybe the shocker is that McClatchy reported it. Pew Research says it’s not even close. Only 14% of John McCain’s coverage has been positive, compared to a whopping 59% negative, since the debate. What about Barack Obama? Three guesses:
John McCain is getting more negative media coverage than Barack Obama, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center.
The study, released Wednesday, examined 2,412 campaign stories from 48 news outlets during the six weeks from the end of the conventions through the final presidential debate.
The results: While the candidates are receiving equal amounts of coverage, 59% of stories about McCain were “decidedly negative in nature,” while only 14% were positive.
Obama hasn’t exactly been fawned over by media, but the coverage statistically has been more evenhanded, with 36% of stories clearly positive, 35% neutral or mixed, and 29% negative.
Put it another way: Obama gets treated positively 250% more often than John McCain, who gets treated negatively more than 200% more than Obama. And that’s from equal amounts of coverage, which is in itself just a little surprising. Just imagine what it would like if the coverage was imbalanced.
Pew has a few caveats about their study. The negative coverage mainly comes from poll analysis, they say, and McCain’s been trending downward longer since the conventions than Obama. That’s true as far as it goes, but I’m curious as to whether the polls drive that or the coverage drives the polling. Also, the proliferation of polls gives media outlets their choice of narrative. Maybe they focus on the worst of the polls more than the ones indicating more of a dead heat? That could explain why some media outlets (I won’t name names like CBS, of course!) routinely conduct polls with ridiculously-skewed samples favoring Democrats by 14 points, just to drive that kind of negative coverage.
This study doesn’t answer the basic questions of journalistic integrity, as Pew itself claims. Perhaps in a couple of weeks, they can compare the number of stories about Joe the Plumber’s political history and alliances to those written on the same topics about Obama and see whom the media favored. Actually, no one needs a study to answer that question.