July 28, 2008

Press Release
July 28, 2008
Contact: Donald Rieck

Study Finds Obama Faring Worse On TV News Than McCain

Barack Obama is getting more negative coverage than John McCain on TV network evening news shows, reversing Obama’s lead in good press during the primaries, according to a new study by Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA). The study also finds that a majority of both candidates’ coverage is unfavorable for the first time this year. According to CMPA President Dr. S. Robert Lichter, “Obama replaced McCain as the media’s favorite candidate after New Hampshire. But now the networks are voting no on both candidates.”

These results are from the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) 2008 Election News Watch Project. They are based on a scientific content analysis of 249 election news stories (7 hours 38 minutes of airtime) that aired on ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and Fox Special Report (first half hour) from June 8, 2008 to July 21, 2008. Previously we analyzed 2144 stories (43 hrs 30 min airtime) during the primary campaign from December 16, 2007 through June 7, 2008. We report on all on-air evaluations of the candidates by sources and reporters, after excluding comments by the campaigns about each other.


Since the primaries ended, on-air evaluations of Barack Obama have been 72% negative (vs. 28% positive). That’s worse than John McCain’s coverage, which has been 57% negative (vs. 43% positive) during the same time period.

This is a major turnaround since McCain and Obama emerged as front-runners in the early primaries. From the New Hampshire primary on January 8 until Hillary Clinton dropped out on June 7, Obama’s coverage was 62% positive (v. 38% negative) on the broadcast networks; by contrast, McCain’s coverage during this period was only 34% positive (v. 66% negative).

Obama ran even farther behind McCain on Fox News Channel’s Special Report with 79% negative comments (v. 21% positive), compared to 61% negative comments (v. 39% positive) for McCain since June 8. During the primaries Obama had a slight lead in good press on Fox, with 52% favorable comments (v. 48 % unfavorable), compared to 48% favorable (v. 52% unfavorable) for McCain.

Obama’s bad press has come at a time when he was much more visible than McCain. Since June 8, he has been the subject of 120 stories on the three network evening news shows, 50% more than John McCain’s 80 stories.

Examples of Obama’s evaluations:

Positive: “Obama came to Baghdad and he brought his star power with him…..hundreds of U.S. troops and State Department personnel mobbed Obama at the embassy here.” –Terry Moran, ABC

Negative: “You raised a lot of eyebrows on this trip saying, even knowing what you know now, you still would not have supported the surge. People may be scratching their heads and saying, ‘why’?” – Katie Couric, CBS

Negative: “Far more Americans say John McCain would be a good commander in chief than Obama” – Jake Tapper, ABC

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