Media coverage of President Barack Obama was largely positive in the final week of the presidential campaign, while coverage of Mitt Romney was mostly negative, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
From October 29 to November 5, positive stories about Obama in mainstream media outlets outnumbered negative ones by 10 percentage points, with 29 percent positive, and 19 negative. On the other hand, negative stories about the GOP nominee Mitt Romney outweighed positive stories by 17 points, with 33 percent negative compared to 16 positive.
The report, which analyzed 660 stories from 59 media outlets, also notes the positive media coverage of Obama was higher in the final week than it had been in previous weeks. The tone of coverage about Romney stayed roughly the same.
Pew suggests the discrepancy in coverage may have been "tied to Obama's strategic position," meaning his improvement in the polls or electoral math as Election Day drew close. New York Times statistician Nate Silver, for example, overwhelmingly predicted an Obama win that week.
The president's response to Superstorm Sandy, which hit the East Coast just a week before Election Day, and which some pundits believed would help Obama look more "presidential," didn't necessarily translate to more positive coverage, according to Pew. But the storm may have diminished the attention the media paid to Romney.
"Romney may have suffered in final days from the press focusing less on him relative to his opponent," Pew writes. "After receiving roughly identical levels of coverage for most of October, in the last week of campaigning Obama was a significant presence in eight out of 10 campaign stories compared with six in 10 for Romney-one of the biggest disparities in any week after Labor Day."
The Pew study also examined the social media conversation on the candidates that week. And interestingly, the political conversation during the final week on Twitter did not track with the media coverage. The conversation about Romney on the social network in early November was "the most positive of any" during the general election, according to Pew, while the tone of conversation about Obama on Twitter didn't change.
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