Pew report: Gay marriage coverage far more focused on support than opposition

Pew Research Center

About half the news coverage of the Supreme Court’s deliberations on two same-sex marriage cases this spring focused on support for gay marriage, while only 9 percent focused on opposition. 44 percent of coverage was neutral. Those are among the findings of a new study by Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, out today.

The Supreme Court may rule on one or both of those cases Monday.

That trend continued across “nearly all media sectors studied,” the report says. “All three of the major cable networks, for instance, had more stories with significantly more supportive statements than opposing, including Fox News.”

The study evaluated tone of stories by counting viewpoints expressed in them. It looked at stories in 11 newspapers; websites such as Politico, Gawker and BuzzFeed; network news, cable channels and radio.

The Wall Street Journal and USA Today were the newspapers that ran the most stories classed as neutral. MSNBC had the “highest percentage of support (64%) and the fewest neutral stories (30%).”

Fox News, on the other hand, had the lowest percentage of supportive stories (29%) and the highest level of neutral (63%). … CNN’s mix was closer to Fox than MSNBC, with 39% largely voicing support and 57% neutral or mixed.

(Click image to view a larger version of it.)

Similar patterns held for commentary and reported stories. Pew offers several possible explanations for the tilt toward support:

[M]any of the newsmaking events in this time period indicated momentum towards same-sex marriage. These included endorsements from politicians, legislation at the state level and shifts in public opinion tracked by surveys. Second, during the week of the hearings, when most of the coverage occurred, the media offered many profiles of the plaintiffs or members of the LGBT community with few voices of opposition mixed in. Finally, commentators who favored same-sex marriage, such as Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, spent more time discussing the issue than commentators who opposed it, such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

The Huffington Post “produced far more content than any other media outlet studied,” the report reads. “On March 27 alone, the second day of the Supreme Court hearings, the Huffington Post produced 77 separate pieces on the subject.”

A couple of other interesting nuggets from the report, which is part of the Pew Research Center’s “LGBT in Changing Times” series.

  • Sentiment on Twitter shifted sharply from support to opposition to same-sex marriage from the week the court took up the cases to two weeks later.
  • Journalists tended to use the term “same-sex marriage,” while the public used the term “gay marriage” more in Google searches.

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  • raytheist

    “sin” is a religious concept. Our Constitution, and our nation that functions under the Constitution, does not depend on religious opinions, but on facts and equality. You’re entitled to believe homosexuality or abortion are “sins”, but that is not a valid argument to prevent others in a secular civil society from making their own choices in the matter, especially when those choice have no impact and create no injury upon anyone else.

  • firefighter

    faith is ones PERSONAL walk ,worth God and NOT for one to impose upon others. There is nowhere in thr bible that distinguishes one love being ok and another not being ok. Regardless….this is NOT about sin and not sin…thisis about freedoms, priviledges, rights in the U.S. constitution, notabout ones bible. The.marriage of a couple will not affect the validity of yours..dont worry. There are plenty of sinnersthat are married….which would include all the Christians. Marriage has nothing to do with an individual other than having freedoms, rights, priledges. Its up to an individual to take it.up with God. None of it is our business.

  • robertbwinn

    The Bible says, Love one another. It is not love when two people tempt one another to commit sin. It is something else. So you say you are changing the meaning of words. Good is going to be bad, evil is going to be good, and homosexuality is going to be gay.
    Sorry, repentance still means repentance, and that is the only remedy for sin.

  • firefighter

    where in the bible does it state that love is a sin sir? ive read it multipletimes. On subject…well dont get me started becauseim pretty certain you are not perfect…and hopefully you are not a glutton or gossip or do ANY of the things the bible tells you not to do or you should be repenting also. God knows a personsheart and ONLY God does. He tells us not to judgeothers. HE is the judge ofa person, not any man. This has nothing to do with saying if anything is a sin or not, its about extending the same rights to individuals. If you really want to know what was truly meant in the bible one must learn greek/hebrew and have an understanding of that time period and get it directly from the dead sea sctolls. anything else has been reinterpreted over 2,000 years. Ever played the game where you tell something in someones ear and it get relayed by 10people and what you get back is hardly anything of what you said…?

  • robertbwinn

    Homosexuality and the killing of an unborn child are both sins. No matter how complicated you try to make one or the other, what is required is repentance, not explanations or debate. The first sermon preached by Jesus Christ was, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

  • firefighter

    explain how same sex marriage is like killing an unborn child? if 2 people get married, how does that hurt any other U.S. citizen? So how do you explain the 50%+ divorce rate among heterosexual marriages? There are many same sex couples that have been together for many years that can’t get married, but hetero marriages that were performed at Vegas after knowing each other a few hours.Single parents all over this country and nobody talks about them, yet adoption of a child by a same sex couple, that would likely grow up in foster homes and orphanages, isnt ok? 2 people to love a child isn’t better than one? Sorry but its a better life all together for a child have 2 loving parents….gay or straight.

  • firefighter

    * anything, not nothing

  • firefighter

    if one thinks marriage equality has nothing to do with sex, they’re a jaded individual. It has everything to do with loving someone and not being able to have the same freedoms/rights that every other marriage has extended to them under the U.S. constitution…over 1,000 rights and freedoms. It wasn’t that long ago that blacks couldn’t marry whites, women couldn’t vote and people thought it was ok to enslave a person based on the color of their skin. Who you love isnt a choice, it just happens and who you love you should be able to enjoy the recognition and rights/freedoms that other married couples enjoy. This has nothing to do with sex…so don’t get off tract here please. You may not like or approve of another person, but does that mean they shouldn’t be able to get married just because you don’t approve?

  • AhContraire

    p.s. If you can understand what the above “Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.” point/question is talking about, then you may understand that it brings a kind of new bio-hazard and medical safety meaning to the gay and lesbian “Born This Way” slogan, doesn’t it?

  • AhContraire

    If so, why not ask this OTHER BORN THIS WAY TYPE OF QUESTION?

    That is, Doesn’t the medical community recommend that you, “Wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.”?

    Yet, now there are some in the medical community that now say it’s OK to “Sleep with the waste that gets flushed down in the toilet?” and that it’s possible to live a perfectly normal life.

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    2 afraid 2 follow me on Twitter? U can still bookmark me on Twitter at @AhContraire

  • firefighter

    when did you choose to be attracted to the opposite sex?

  • robertbwinn

    Homosexual marriage is like abortion. Anyone can tell it is wrong.

  • Matthew Hoy

    Not news.