In the month of May, MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and FOX’s Special Report with Bret Baier amplified the negative campaigning tactics of both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. It is a challenge to separate this negativity as a reflection of the candidates and their internal strategies from the agendas of the programs’ newsmaker guests themselves.
Coverage of Obama on Bret Baier’s FOX Program Was Very Negative
On June 12th, The 4th Estate Project published a post about election coverage of Obama and Romney on major political talk shows during the month of May and early June. The data showed that MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews covered Romney more than they did Obama, and FOX’s Special Report with Bret Baier covered Obama more than they did Romney. At first glance, this might seem counter-intuitive. One might think that left-leaning MSNBC would talk about Obama more than Romney and right-leaning FOX would discuss Romney over Obama. A deeper analysis shows that the highly negative nature of the election and election coverage on both of these programs led to this result.
In Chart 1, we can see that coverage of Obama on FOX’s Special Report with Bret Baier was very negative during this time period. Almost half (45.7%) of statements about Obama in election coverage on the program were negative to Obama, and only 8% were positive. Although Baier, his reporters and guests discussed Obama more than Romney (50% of the statements were about Barack Obama compared to 37% about Romney), they spent more time criticizing him than praising him. In May, the overall coverage of Obama was approximately 34% negative and 17% positive, so FOX’s coverage is a significant variant from the mean.
Romney Received Negative Coverage on MSNBC’s Hardball
Similarly, in Chart 2 we see that on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, the discussion of Mitt Romney in election coverage often had a negative tone. Over one-third (35.2%) of the election coverage on the program about Romney was negative to him, and only 9% was positive. Even though the program covered Mitt Romney much more than Obama (52% compared to Obama at 38%), most of that time was spent criticizing Romney. Just as FOX’s coverage of Obama differed from the mean, so did MSNBC’s coverage of Romney. In May, the overall coverage of Romney was approximately 28% negative and 16% positive