Media Bias: 2012 Presidential Campaign

When it comes to the concept of media bias there are two things that are true:

  1. Conservatives think that the main stream media is bias against conservatives and republicans.
  2. Liberals think that Fox is the most bias media outlet out there.

I happen to think that there is good evidence to support contention #1 and strong evidence to contradict contention #2.

Anyway, that is general conversation stuff, I’m here to talk about the media coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign.  Namely the bias involved in it.

Bottom line, the bias was present, pronounced and tilted in favor of Obama.

Journalism.org, a PEW organization recently published a report detailing said bias:

Overall from August 27 through October 21, 19% of stories about Obama studied in a cross section of mainstream media were clearly favorable in tone while 30% were unfavorable and 51% mixed. This is a differential of 11 percentage points between unfavorable and favorable stories.

For Romney, 15% of the stories studied were favorable, 38% were unfavorable and 47% were mixed-a differential toward negative stories of 23 points.

During the study, Obama enjoyed a differential that was more than 100% more favorable than Romney.  Further, Obama took a “positive coverage” score that was 26% better than Romney received all while Romney suffered 26% more negative coverage.

Looking back, the numbers don’t really surprise me.  I’ve accepted a sense of the bias in the media and have come to accept and adjust for that bias as I flip through my channels.

And speaking of flipping through channels, how did the “liberal channel” compare against the “conservative channel?”

Not even close:

Fox gave Obama 100% better coverage than MSNBC gave Romney.  As far as the negatives, MSNBC was 54% more negative towards Romney than Fox was towards Obama.  In other words, Fox was less negative and more positive towards Obama than MSNBC was towards Romney.

Faux News indeed.

But how about the other outlets?

Two of the three main networks were pretty consistent in their coverage of the two candidates.  The one exception is ABC with a decided pro-Obama slant.  Notice that NBC actually nets out in favor of Romney by virtue of 2 points to the good in the positive coverage.

In the end, the media carries a bias for the liberal candidate.  This was as true in 2012 as it was in 2008.  This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, just a reminder that a grain of salt needs to be applied when watching news coverage of the events of the day.

Oh, and as a reminder of media bias from a report in 2004, a measure of various outlets:

Fox News was the 5th most centrist news outlet and was only 1 of 2 conservative news sources on the list.

4 responses to “Media Bias: 2012 Presidential Campaign

  1. Most of the news coverage of the race was of the horse-race variety. Given that Obama lead in the race from the very beginning (with a possible exception of a few days after the first debate, depending on who you ask) I suspect that some of this positive coverage of Obama merely stemmed from the fact that he was in the lead and Romney was under pressure to do something to turn the tables.

    I would also add that it was Romney who had the bigger slip-ups in the last few months (e.g. 47%)

    • Given that Obama lead in the race from the very beginning (with a possible exception of a few days after the first debate, depending on who you ask) I suspect that some of this positive coverage of Obama merely stemmed from the fact that he was in the lead and Romney was under pressure to do something to turn the tables.

      If you look at the report, the coverage and tone changed after the first debate, but only for a little while. After the second debate the pattern was back to an Obama edge.

      The same data and patterns played out in the 08 election as well.

      The truth is that reporters are liberal; this isn’t a shock or surprise. You can tell this in college. I went to the University of Minnesota. I attended the Institute of Technology [i tease my wife that I went to MIT]. We actively made fun of the College of Liberal Arts crew; especially the journalism majors.

      As for the slip-ups; hard to say. I happen to be one who thinks that Romney should have pursued the 47%. To be sure, the 47% label is a rough one, but it’s the quick and dirty number based on those who don’t pay income tax. And Romney’s pressure on the Obama administration’s handling of Benghazi is turning out to be accurate; Obama and his team have handled this horribly.

      Perhaps a more friendly and aggressive press would have changed the tone. Hell, if only Candy Crowley wouldn’t have entered the ring on behalf of Obama it might have changed everything. After she sucker punched Romney, he didn’t dare go near Benghazi in debate 3.

  2. Where is that last chart from? I couldn’t find it in the PEW study.

    As for your assertions at the top, I don’t know that they’re true. A lot of liberals think MSNBC is ridiculous, too. Rachel Maddow does some amazing work and I love her show every time I see it, but “The Ed Show” and Larry O’Donnell are so over-the-top that even in our super-lefty house we can’t stand them. Rachel is the only show on there we really watch.

    So, it doesn’t surprise me that MSNBC racks up more negs against Romney than Fox does against Obama. The real problem is that Fox intermingles its editorial and news people constantly, such that viewers forget that Hannity is actually just talking out of his ass, not reporting actual news.

    • Where is that last chart from? I couldn’t find it in the PEW study.

      http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/groseclose/Media.Bias.8.htm

      A lot of liberals think MSNBC is ridiculous, too. Rachel Maddow does some amazing work and I love her show every time I see it, but “The Ed Show” and Larry O’Donnell are so over-the-top that even in our super-lefty house we can’t stand them. Rachel is the only show on there we really watch.

      I think all three are equally screechy. Screechy the same way Hannity is screechy. I used to watch Hannity and Colmes but when Sean got his own show……I was gone.

      The real problem is that Fox intermingles its editorial and news people constantly, such that viewers forget that Hannity is actually just talking out of his ass, not reporting actual news.

      Yeah, I don’t get much daytime news. However, my impression of Brett and Shepard is that they are fairly straight with the news.

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