Pew Analysis: Media Accentuate Negative in Presidential Campaign

Prime Obama storyline is failed economy, for Romney it's ‘vulture capitalist."
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The news media's portrayal of the character
and records of the two presidential candidates has been primarily negative,
according to a new Pew Research Center content analysis of a
10-week period from May 29 to Aug. 5. In addition, campaign ad themes do not
appear to be translating into the news narrative.

The
study found that 72% of the coverage of Obama has been negative, and 71% of the
coverage of Mitt Romney.

The
most prevalent negative assertions about President Obama in those stories on
talk programs have been that the administration has failed to do enough to fix
the economy. Romney's biggest knock was that he was a "callous
'vulture' capitalist."

"As
the candidates try to re-introduce themselves to voters, the study shows that
the press has delivered these voters a remarkably negative story for both Obama
and Romney," said PEJ associate director Mark Jurkowitz, in a statement. Pew
said the campaign coverage has been more negative than in 2008 and 2000, and
comparable to the 2004 campaign that prominently featured the "Swift
Boat" attacks on John Kerry.

The
study also found that more of what the public hears about candidates is coming
from the campaigns rather than journalists acting as reporters, which it
suggests may be a factor of news cutbacks.

According
to the Pew analysis, only 3% of assertions about President Obama included the
idea that he cares about regular folks, which has been one of his major ad
messages. Romney ads have been promoting his ability to fix economic problems --
the Olympics, the Massachusetts budget when he was
governor -- but the study found that only 10% of assertions affirmed that,
while almost as many (8%) disputed that claim.

The
study highlights coverage on three major cable news nets, pointing out that Fox
and MSNBC are mirror images of one another, while CNN is more in line with the
media narrative in the general national news population.

According
to the study, while Fox has provided a "mixed" view of Romney
(actually more negative assertions [56%, than positive [44%], its assessment of
President Obama's record and character have been negative by a ratio of six to
one (86% negative to 14% positive). MSNBC, by contrast, has been about as
critical of Romney (88% negative to 12% positive) and its Obama assertions only
slightly more positive (54%) than negative (46%).

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