Econintersect: According to a study by the Pew Foundation about media coverage of the two major party presidential candidates only about half the stories are considered "mixed" (neutral) over the period from August 27 to October 21.
Click on graph for larger image.
However, this is a tale of two campaigns separated by the first presidential debate. Obama enjoyed an media advantage before that date and that was reversed in Romney's favor since. But over both periods the mixed or neutral coverage was only found for about half of the media stories; slightly under 50% (estimated by Econintersect at 48-49%) before October 3 and slightly over (clearly 50-51%) after.
The Pew study found that Obama and Romney received similar amounts of coverage, with a slight advantage for Obama (69% of articles) compared to Romney (61%). There was no mention of whether news about official presidential activity was included or not in this number. If the news analysis was restricted to campaign coverage then the difference between the two candidates is probably significantly in favor of Obama who would also have gotten coverage for presidential actions that Romney would not.
Pew looked specifically at the two partisan cable news channels. Both skewed coverage in a predictable way, but Fox clearly offered more neutral or mixed tone stories (46%) than did MSNBC (26%). Clearly in this comparison Fox can lay claim to the "Fair and Balanced" title compared to its rival. To be fair, though, MSNBA has never laid claim to that mantra to Econintersect's knowledge.
Again, if news of official presidential actions has been included that will bias the data since many news stories in that category are likely to be neutral.
The difference in negativity came in stories that discussed how the campaigns were being run (Pew called these "Horserace Stories"), while negativity in stories about the issues was very evenly balanced between the two candidates and was mixed or neutral more than 2/3 of the time.
Not surprisingly, the study found much higher incidence of negativity in social media posts and blogs than in the main stream media.
Another factoid: Romney is faring much better in the media than John McCain did in 2008.
Read the full report at Journalism.org.
- Winning The Media Campaign 2012 (Pew Foundation, Journalism.org, 02 November 2012)