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PEJ: Media Coverage Not So Sweet For John McCain

Media coverage of the presidential race has not so much favored Barack Obama as it has disfavored John McCain.

According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, the coverage of Obama has tended toward more positive than negative stories. But where the coverage gap really lies is in the "decidedly unfavorable" coverage of McCain that has gotten even more negative over time.

In fact, according to a PEJ news content analysis, there have been three negative McCain stories for every one positive in the last six weeks of the campaign, which has seen a lead for Obama build in most national polls.

PEJ says it looked at more than 2,000 stories from 43 broadcast, cable, print and online news outlets from the end of the convention through the final presidential debate Oct. 15.

The coverage of McCain has been far more negative than for anyone on either ticket, said PEJ.

Only 14% of the stories about McCain were positive, said PEJ, while over third (36%) of the stories about Obama were.

"For McCain," the study concluded, "coverage began positively, but turned sharply negative with McCain’s reaction to the crisis in the financial markets."

PEJ attributed further negative coverage to McCain's efforts to reverse his fortunes. "As he took increasingly bolder steps to try and reverse the direction of the polls, the coverage only worsened. Attempts to turn the dialogue away from the economy through attacks on Obama’s character did hurt Obama’s media coverage, but McCain’s was even more negative."

McCain has edged even with Obama in the media exposure he has received, but given that most of the stories were not positive, that could actually work against him. In the weeks before the convention, Obama was getting half again as much media exposure.

For the full study, and PEJ's explanation of how it arrived at a finding of negative coverage, click here.