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President Gets Election Eve Surge In Positive Press Coverage

Pew Content Analysis Concludes it Wasn't Directly Related to Prominence during Superstorm Sandy 11/19/2012 7:33 AM Eastern

President Barack Obama had more positive news coverage than he had gotten in months in the days just prior to the November election, but that was attributable to his improving race strategy rather than his prominence in the Superstorm Sandy coverage.

That is according to a new study from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism (http://www.journalism.org/analysis_report/final_days_media_campaign_2012), based on a content analysis of 660 news stories from 49 mainstream media outlets between Oct. 22 and Nov. 5.

According to the study, 37% of the "horserace" stories about the President in the last week of the campaign were positive, compared to 16% negative. That was a better favorable-to-unfavorable ratio than at any time in the previous two months, according to the study.

And while the surge in positive coverage was not tied directly to the storm, Sandy did appear to reduce the attention on Gov. Romney, who generated 25% less coverage in the last week than did the President.

“It is clear that things broke for Obama in the last week,” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, in a statement. “The media tend to reinforce the phenomena they observe in the final days of the race. In this case, that included the president’s performance in the storm, but even more so, the opinion polls that were moving his way.”

For the entire campaign, President Obama easily won the favorable-to-unfavorable race, though neither candidate was on the positive side of the ledger. From Aug. 27 through Nov. 5, 20% of the stories about the President were favorable vs. 28% unfavorable. For Gov. Romney, the divide was 15% favorable to 37% unfavorable.

Coverage by Fox News Channel and MSNBC became more politically polarized as the race drew to a close. In the final week, Fox's unfavorable coverage of Obama increased from 47% to 56%, while MSNBC's unfavorable coverage of Romney grew from 57% to 68%.

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