Monday, July 28, 2008

Study: Media covers Obama more, but more positive toward McCain

By Joe Uchill
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If you have heard about this Barack Obama fellow, it might be because the news talks about him a whole lot. National network news gave him 166 minutes of coverage in the first seven weeks after the primary, more than double John McCain’s 67 minutes. But don’t go complaining about the liberal media bias just yet – a George Mason University study shows that Obama’s coverage was overwhelmingly negative, much more so than his Republican rival. Simply put, more Obama coverage doesn't mean more coverage beneficial to Obama.

Let the claims of the media choosing a candidate be put to bed. If anything, the media has decided against both candidates. Reporting on Obama was 72% negative and 28% positive, reporting for McCain was 57% negative and 43% positive. While there have been weeks of complaints about networks devoting more time to the frontrunner (and plenty of studies to back it up), this is the evaluation of the quality of that quantity. With a lean against both candidates but a focus on Obama, the media’s time really is on McCain’s side. Every additional minute on TV is a competitive disadvantage.

In any other political climate, this study wouldn’t be a surprise. There will always be more coverage of the more popular candidate and more coverage of the better speaker. The front runner will always be subject to negative coverage, either because contrarian viewpoints make for interesting stories or – cynically – because keeping the race close keeps the story alive. And John McCain couldn’t be happier.

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