The media's coverage of the 2012 Republican primary favored Mitt Romney over President Barack Obama, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The report, released by the Washington-based nonprofit on Monday, analyzed the content and tone of the press coverage of the GOP presidential race from January 2 to April 15. It found that Obama's negative coverage exceeded positive coverage in 14 out of 15 weeks, while Romney's positive coverage outweighed the negative for six weeks, and was almost evenly divided in four more, according to the study.
Romney’s media coverage was 39 percent positive, 32 percent negative, and 29 percent neutral, the report found. In contrast, Obama’s was 18 percent positive, 34 percent negative, and 34 percent neutral.
"That means Romney’s depiction by the media was more than twice as positive as the president’s," wrote the Daily Beast's Howard Kurtz. "So much for liberal bias."
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Researchers from the Project for Excellence in Journalism analyzed 52 major news outlets, and used computer analysis to look at more than 11,000 additional websites, newspapers, and television and radio shows.
The study also found that Romney's media coverage took a turn when the former Massachusetts governor won the primary in his home state of Michigan on February 28: after that point, the press about Romney became notably more favorable, The Daily Beast reported.
In contrast, coverage of Romney's rival Rick Santorum became more negative and less frequent after Michigan.
“The press began to see Romney’s victory as essentially secured by the end of February even though it was clear many voters were still uneasy,” Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism and a co-author of the report, told the Associated Press. “What we saw going on in the coverage then was a suddenly intense discussion of ‘delegate math’ and the conclusion that no other candidate could win.”
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The media also examined Obama and his policies with a harsh magnifying glass, giving him more negative coverage than any of his potential GOP rivals, the AP reported. Obama, unlike Romney, did not get more positive than negative press for a single week in the 15 weeks examined by the study.
“Day in and day out, he was criticized by the entire Republican field on a variety of policies,” Jurkowitz said of Obama, the Daily Beast reported. “And he was inextricably linked to events that generated negative coverage" such as the rising price of gas, the recession, and health care.
The report also finds that the media has been less focused on covering campaign strategy and tactics than they were in the 2008 primary season: 64 percent of the coverage focused on strategic moves, compared with 80 percent in the 2008 GOP primary season, the study found. Instead, 2012's media has puttwice as much emphasis on personal issues, public record, and policy issues this primary race when compared to 2008.