A New Pew report found that a week before the election, MSNBC didn’t report one story negative about Obama. Additionally, they couldn’t find one positive story about Romney. And the Left calls Fox News Biased?
Then, in the final week (October 29 to November 5), a noticeable change occurred: Obama’s coverage improved dramatically while Romney’s coverage stayed about the same but shrank in volume.
That week, fully 29% of the Obama stories were positive compared to 19% which were negative, a net plus of 10 points. That was the best week Obama had seen since the week of the Democratic National Convention in early September; the final week also marked only the second week of the general election when Obama was the subject of more positive stories than negative.
Romney’s coverage in that final week slipped slightly, but not by a significant amount. That week, 16% of his stories were positive compared to 33% that were negative, a difference of 17 points.
Rather than Romney faltering in the last week, in other words, the difference was largely that Obama benefited from a new media narrative.
Not only did the tone change, but the amount of coverage changed as well. From October 1 to 28, Romney and Obama were both covered at roughly the same amount. Obama was a significant presence (meaning he was in 25% of the story or more) in 75% of the campaign-related coverage compared to 71% for Romney.
But in the final week, a bigger discrepancy was seen as Obama was a significant presence in 80% of the coverage, and Romney was a significant presence in 62%.
The data suggest two major factors in Obama’s increased and improved coverage in the final week of the campaign. One was the increase in amount of attention paid to the horse-race components of the race, which showed Obama with key advantages late in the race. During the final week, 46% of all press coverage of the campaign focused on horse-race and strategy stories, larger than the 39% that was devoted to such issues throughout the entire race.