This post is the continuation of our media monitoring series examining coverage behavior during Election 2012. Today’s post discusses the statistical data analysis of the coverage of Social Issues among top print outlets.

In the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times, there were three identifiable periods of high coverage of Social Issues. Each period of coverage occurred around the same time in all five papers with slight variation.

The first period was in late April and early May. In the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post, there were two coverage spikes during this period. The first spike was caused by Hilary Rosen’s take down of Ann Romney regarding her status as a privileged non-working mother and her knowledge (or lack thereof) of the economy. The second spike was from Biden and Obama’s announcements in early May regarding same-sex marriage. While the Boston Globe and New York Times coverage of Social Issues spiked after the same-sex marriage announcements in May, there was no visible spike in their coverage of Social Issues after Hilary Rosen’s comments in early April.

The second period of high coverage of Social Issues was consistent in all five newspapers. This occurred in late August, when Republican Senate hopeful Todd Akin made comments about “legitimate rape”. Akin’s comments were widely ridiculed (one of the more amusing parodies is here), both at the time and as the fall progressed including by members of the Republican media establishment, who called him ‘selfish swine’ among other things. The final spike, also consistent across all five newspapers, occurred in late October when Romney made his comment about “binders full of women” that launched a 1,000 tumblrs. He made this comment during the second Presidential debate, sparking a conversation about equal pay for women and the Lily Ledbetter Act.

Chart shows coverage of Social Issues over time. Time frame is Jan 1-Nov 6, 2012.

Chart shows coverage of Social Issues over time. Time frame is Jan 1-Nov 6, 2012.

Chart shows coverage of Social Issues over time. Time frame is Jan 1-Nov 6, 2012.

Chart shows coverage of Social Issues over time. Time frame is Jan 1-Nov 6, 2012.

Chart shows coverage of Social Issues over time. Time frame is Jan 1-Nov 6, 2012.

Chart shows coverage of Social Issues over time. Time frame is Jan 1-Nov 6, 2012.

In the Journal, the LA Times, and the Washington Post, there were two distinct spikes in coverage of Social Issues in April and May. As mentioned earlier, the first spike was caused by Hilary Rosen’s comments about Ann Romney on April 11. This set off a firestorm about a woman’s role in the economy and motherhood. Following this coverage, there was a quick drop in coverage of Social Issues in each of the three newspapers; in each of these newspapers Campaign Strategy took its place. Just prior to Rosen’s comments, Santorum had dropped out of the race and the general election campaign between Romney and Obama had unofficially begun. Once the Hilary Rosen – Ann Romney storm passed, the Journal, LA Times, and Washington Post focused their coverage on how the Obama and Romney campaigns would raise money and approach the general election campaign. When Biden and Obama announced their support for same-sex marriage in early May, this triggered the second spike.

Chart shows coverage of Social Issues over time. Time frame is Jan 1-Nov 6, 2012.

Chart shows coverage of Social Issues over time. Time frame is Jan 1-Nov 6, 2012.

Chart shows coverage of Social Issues over time. Time frame is Jan 1-Nov 6, 2012.

Chart shows coverage of Social Issues over time. Time frame is Jan 1-Nov 6, 2012.

In the Boston Globe and NY Times, significant Social Issues coverage only occurred following Obama and Biden’s announcement about same-sex marriage. Hilary Rosen’s comments caused no significant spike in coverage like it did in the Journal, LA Times, and Washington Post. Similar to the Washington Post, the Boston Globe dedicated about 15% of their coverage to Social Issues following Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments, whereas the other three newspapers were below 10%. Romney’s “binders full of women” comment prompted about the same amount of Social Issues coverage among the five newspapers.