During the last week of the 2012 presidential campaign, Fox News and MSNBC both took a dramatically negative tone toward President Obama and Mitt Romney, respectively.
68 percent of MSNBC’s coverage of Romney was negative during from Oct. 29-Nov. 5, up from 57 percent in October. That doesn’t sound too surprising, except that Pew found 5 percent of MSNBC’s Romney coverage was positive from Oct. 1-28, while it found no positive coverage of Romney when it looked at the final week’s stories. It also found no negative coverage of Obama.
From October 1 to 28, 4% of Obama’s stories were positive and 47% were negative (a difference of 43 points). In the final week, however, that tenor changed so that 5% of Obama’s stories were positive while 56% were negative-a difference of 51 points.
Still, note that Fox managed to squeeze out 5 percent positive coverage of the president. Media coverage broke Obama’s way during the last week, Pew found. Not only did he get more coverage, but 29 percent of the final-week coverage of Obama was positive, while only 19 percent of Romney coverage was positive. Earlier in the campaign Pew had found that coverage of the two candidates was almost equally negative.
That bounce can’t be attributed to Hurricane Sandy: “In the election’s final week, only 4% of the campaign-related coverage was about the storm,” the Pew report says.
And of those few campaign stories that focused on the hurricane, the treatment of Obama was mostly neutral or mixed. However, coverage of the storm may have had a more indirect benefit for Obama by depicting him in passing references responding to the disaster. While the president was not a major figure in these stories, they have may have influenced public attitudes about him.
Obama didn’t get better media coverage after the third presidential debate, the study also found. Romney had more positive coverage than the president that week.