Spin Cycle

11.02.12

Candidate Coverage: Obama Fares Badly, Romney Worse

Study finds especially harsh treatment on Twitter

The media have been hammering Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in recent weeks—but in this sea of negativity, the president has fared slightly better.

From Aug. 27 (when the conventions started) through Oct. 21, some 30 percent of the stories about Obama were clearly negative in tone, 19 percent were positive and 51 percent were mixed.

For Romney, 38 percent were unfavorable, 15 percent were positive and 47 percent mixed.

The findings by the Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that each candidate went through rough periods—Romney when he made his quick-draw comments on the attack in Libya and the 47 percent video surfaced, Obama after getting clobbered in the first debate. (Obama’s coverage, by the way, was twice as positive four years ago.)

But here’s an interesting twist: when the horse race stories about strategy and polling were removed, the project says, the coverage of the candidates’ ideas, biographies and records were roughly even. For Obama, it was 15 percent positive, 32 percent negative; for Romney, 14 percent positive, 32 percent negative.

The press sure seems to like negativity.

Here’s a non-shocker: On MSNBC, 71 percent of the segments about Romney were negative and 3 percent positive—a ratio of roughly 21-to-1. On Fox News, 46 percent of the segments about Obama were negative and 6 percent positive—a ratio of 8-to-1. So MSNBC wins that particular contest, I guess.

Finally, social media is an even rougher neighborhood. Every week on Twitter, the commentary was as negative as the worst week the candidates had in the mainstream press—and worse for Romney.