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PEJ: Media Narrative Helped Santorum Surge in Iowa Caucuses - Broadcasting & Cable

PEJ: Media Narrative Helped Santorum Surge in Iowa Caucuses

Analysis of news stories shows media narrative for Santorum and Romney brightened as Gingrich's support slipped
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A new study by Project for Excellence in Journalism study suggests that Rick Santorum's razor-close second-place finish in the Iowa Caucuses Tuesday was aided by the news media's focus on the horse-race aspect of the race in its final weeks.

"If momentum in presidential politics is something that builds on itself," said PEJ, "then Rick Santorum's last-minute surge to finish in a virtual tie for first with Mitt Romney in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses benefited from the narrative in the news media."

According to a PEJ analysis of over 11,500 news stories between Dec. 19 and Jan. 2, more than a quarter (27%) dealt with polls, strategy, and momentum as Santorum coverage began to focus on signs he was surging in the polls, including a CNN poll showing he had moved into third place at the time.

PEJ points out that the media narrative for both Santorum and Romney brightened, particularly as previous frontrunner Newt Gingrich's support slipped -- Gingrich was attributing much of that last week to Super PAC attack ads, a relatively new vehicle facilitated by the Supreme Court's Citizen's United decision that corporations and unions can directly fund ads supporting or opposing candidates in the run-up to elections and primaries.

According to PEJ's analysis, rounding out the top five campaign storylines were coverage devoted to the issues and the candidate records, (19%), 16% to the role of the Iowa caucus itself, 15% to events on the ground in Iowa, 10% on political ads, particularly Super PACs.

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