In overall coverage of the general election, from its unofficial start in mid-April until November 11, the most-discussed topics were not the ones that mattered to voters.
Discussion of Campaign topics (Strategy, Horse Race, Debates, etc) and Character (personality, biography, etc) consisted of 60.6% of the coverage. Total discussion of policy issues such as the economy, social issues, foreign policy and others made up just over one-third (39.4%) of the coverage. Out of all policy issues, the economy took the crown, with 11.6% of total election coverage. Other than coverage of the economy, no other issue made up more than 5% of the coverage.
The election coverage in 2012 was driven by discussion of campaign maneuvers, dirty details about the candidates’ life, political calculations and miscalculations, and “gaffes”. Even when a policy position was declared, the discussion was not about its impact on citizens, but instead the impact on the campaign and in the political sphere. There seems to have been a significant disconnect between the level of analysis being done on our screens, on the radio and in our newspapers, and the needs of the audience that must digest that analysis.