Did Romney deserve the negative media coverage he received?


A final surge of positive media coverage propelled President Obama in the last two weeks of the presidential race, while coverage of challenger Mitt Romney remained negative but also tapered off in volume — probably because news outlets shifted their attention to Superstorm Sandy, according to a new study.

The Washington-based Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that “positive stories about Obama (29%) outnumbered negative ones (19%) by 10 points in the week leading up to the voting” on Nov. 6.

The survey of 59 news outlets found that Romney got considerably more negative coverage, both at the end of the campaign and in the period dating back to the nominating conventions, beginning in late August.

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The study found the final surge of good press for Obama closely linked to his strong showing in most polls — amplifying positive impressions of the incumbent that began with surveys trending in his direction.

The research organization said it comes to its conclusions by simply measuring value statements in newspaper, Internet, television and radio stories. It does not judge whether the findings show bias on the part of the nearly six dozen media outlets it examines.

Romney made enough missteps during the heart of the campaign season — most notably his secretly recorded remarks criticizing the “victim” 47% of Americans who he said are dependent on government benefits — that it could be argued the candidate was responsible for the negative coverage he received.

What the findings seem to show, most strikingly, is how closely media attend to the horse race and judge events in the campaign through the prism of poll results. The findings also demonstrated how bad news can mushroom for a candidate. When Obama gave a lackadaisical performance in the first debate with Romney, he suffered more than a week of his most negative coverage of the campaign.

Overall coverage from the start of the Republican National Convention in late August through election day fell far short of glowing for Obama, who was on the receiving end of 9 percentage points of more negative stories than positive ones. But the negative balance fell more severely on Romney, whose negative stories outnumbered positive ones by 22 percentage points.

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The two most stridently political cable TV outlets remained true to form in the final week of the campaign, but more so, the Pew study found. The results said: “On Fox News, the amount of negative coverage of Obama increased — from 47% in the first four weeks of October to 56% the final week. Meanwhile, positive discussion of Romney grew, from 34% of segments to 42%. On MSNBC, the positive coverage of Obama increased from 33% during most of October to 51% during the last week, while Romney’s negative coverage increased from 57% to 68%.”

Findings of the survey for:

Overall media coverage from late August to Nov. 6

Positive Negative

Obama 20% 29%

Romney 15% 37%

Media coverage the last week of the campaign

Positive Negative

Obama 29% 19%

Romney 16% 33%

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