Does the news media favor Democratic or Republican presidential candidates? That’s the subject of a new Pew Research Center analysis.
Democrats are being favored. By a substantial 49 to 31 percent margin, more stories are being written about Democrats, and Democrats also have received more positive coverage than Republicans (35% of stories were positive for Democrats vs. 26% of stories positive for Republicans). The measure employed in the analysis is whether two-thirds or more of a given story’s assertions were judged to be either positive or negative toward a candidate.
Though Democrats are faring better overall, the coverage has not been kind to front-runners of either party. The early Republican front-runner, John McCain, clearly had it worst (12% positive, 48% negative), though you could debate whether his poor performance with voters caused bad coverage or the bad coverage caused his poor performance with voters. Later front runners Hillary Clinton (27% positive, 38% negative) and Rudy Giuliani (28% positive and 37% negative) had about an equally tough time with the press.
And it’s mostly bad to be a challenger. While Barrack Obama has been the runaway media darling of the race (47% postive to 16% negative), other candidates lower in the polls suffered the worst fate of all – non-coverage. Given that Obama’s support with primary voters didn’t pick up appreciably during this period, one has to ponder whether any of this even matters.
In the heated debate about news media bias, I’ve always argued it is much more valid to focus on what reporters are actually reporting than how reporters are voting, or who they work for after they leave reporting. Well, in the early months of the 2008 presidential campaign season, they are reporting pro-Democratic.