STUDY FINDS OBAMA’S MEDIA MOMENTUM SLOWS
March 3, 2008
Contact: Donald Rieck
BUT HE STILL LEADS HILLARY IN THE RACE FOR GOOD PRESS
Barack Obama’s lead over Hillary Clinton in the race for good press is shrinking but still substantial, according to a new study of the broadcast network evening newscasts by the Center for Media and Public Affairs. The researchers found that Obama’s advantage over Clinton is greatest on CBS and on the topic of who would make a better president.
These results are from the Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) 2008 ElectionNewsWatch Project. They are based on a scientific content analysis of 682 election news stories (20 hours 10 minutes of airtime) that aired on the evening news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC from December 16, 2007 through February 19, 2008.
Obama’s Media Momentum
Since mid-December, five out of six on-air evaluations of Senator Obama (83%) have been positive, while Senator Clinton’s coverage has been about evenly balanced (53% positive). Since Super Tuesday, however, Obama’s proportion of good press has dropped to 67%, his worst performance during any phase of the campaign, while Clinton’s coverage remained balanced (50% positive). For example, from the South Carolina primary (Jan 26) to Super Tuesday, a remarkable 96% of comments about Obama were positive.
“[Obama’s] message is one of change and reconciliation, not protest and looking back at old wounds.” – Democratic Consultant Donna Brazile, ABC
“Just because the union’s voting for Obama doesn’t mean we have to. I’m a union member but a Hillary supporter.” – Voter, ABC
The Bill Factor
Coverage of Hillary Clinton’s campaign was also worsened by heavy criticism of former President Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton has received three negative comments for every positive comment (i.e. 24% positive press) for his role in his wife’s campaign.
“Bill Clinton’s off-message remarks have hurt his wife, and his prominence … under-scores Obama’s key argument that … Hillary Clinton is the past.” – John Harwood, NBC
Senator Obama has received 90% positive evaluations on both ABC and CBS, along with 73% positive comments on NBC. Senator Clinton’s coverage has varied more across the networks, ranging from 68% favorable comments on ABC to only 38% favorable on NBC, along with 50% favorable comments on CBS. Thus, the spread between the two candidates is greatest on CBS – a forty percentage point difference in proportion of good press.
“Hillary Clinton…has a lot of baggage. That’s harsh, but it’s true.” – Voter, CBS
Among on-air sources who evaluated the candidates’ performances on the campaign trail, four out of five (81% positive) praised Senator Obama, while almost three out of four (71% negative) criticized Senator Clinton. Obama led by an even greater margin among sources who speculated on whether one of the candidates would make a good president – 91% expressed optimism about the success of an Obama presidency, while 75% were pessimistic about a Hillary Clinton presidency.
“He represents a kind of racial overcoming… If [Obama] were to become president… America could say… ‘We are not a racist society.'” — Author Shelby Steele, ABC
Senator Clinton led on only one topic of debate: 67% of comments about her policies and her record in politics were positive, compared to 60% positive comments for Senator Obama. However, only one out of ten comments addressed these matters, an unusually low proportion.
“She never gives in, and she’s battle tested.” Actor Jack Nicholson, ABC
What Horse Race?
Since Super Tuesday, 98% of comments about Sen. Obama’s prospects for winning the Democratic nomination have been optimistic, compared to only 53% optimistic comments on Sen. Clinton’s prospects.