This post is the continuation of our media monitoring series examining coverage behavior of various media outlets during Election 2012. Today’s post discusses the statistical data analysis of the sourcing and sentiment behaviors of the New York Times.
In 2012 Presidential Election coverage by the New York Times, from May 1-November 6, 2012, Romney received significantly more favorable coverage than President Obama; 12.4% of election coverage by the New York Times in this time period was negative to Obama, while just 4.5% was positive. In contrast, 7.3% was positive to Romney and 9.5% was negative to Romney. What this data tells us is two-fold. First, it shows that overall election coverage by the New York Times was predominantly negative. 21.9% of the total coverage of the Times was negative, while just 11.8% was positive. Second, this data goes against the stereotype that the New York Times is a solidly left publication. If that stereotype held true, Obama would expect to have received more favorable coverage. Instead, it is Romney with the better negative-to-positive coverage ratio.
When we dig down deeper into the statistical data, some patterns that run counter to this stereotype emerge. Almost one-third of statements in NYT election coverage from May-November came from either Romney or his staff (GOP Contender & Staff). Only 17.9% of statements in their coverage were from Obama, his staff, or White House Officials. The ratio of VoiceShare (share of the coverage) among the two campaigns shows that the Romney team had a clear upper-hand (66% to 34%) in favor of the Romney campaign. Romney and his team were granted a larger microphone, and were able to influence the coverage to their advantage. Romney’s larger microphone was a pattern we saw across our media monitoring sample, and which we demonstrated in the VoiceShare infographic we published in early November right before the election. Interestingly, the discrepency between the presidential candidates is almost 6% larger in the New York Times than in the general overall sample. Again, this is counter-intuitive to the thought that the New York Times is an arm of the Democratic Party. As noted in an article in U.S. World News and Report about 4th Estate data, this discrepency also ran counter to the population’s interest in the respective candidates, at least as evidenced by a comparison of Google searches from June to November 2012.
Not only did the Romney campaign have a higher VoiceShare, but Republican newsmakers outside of the Romney campaign also had a higher VoiceShare than Democratic newsmakers outside of the Obama campaign. The ratio of VoiceShare among the Republican and Democratic newsmakers outside of the campaigns shows this – Republicans with 57.4% and Democrats with 42.6%.
The sentiment of statements from Romney, his campaign staff, and other Republican newsmakers in New York Times election coverage from May-November was very negative toward Obama and positive to Romney. This comes as no surprise. Over 20% of statements from all GOP newsmakers in this time period were negative to Obama, and over 10% were positive to Romney. Since Romney, his staff and Republicans outside of the campaign had much higher VoiceShare than their counterparts (Obama, his staff and Democrats outside of the Obama campaign), their sentiment weighs more heavily as a percentage of the total coverage. So while at first glance, the anti-Obama/pro-Romney coverage by the New York Times seems confusing, it becomes clear that the larger VoiceShare of Romney and Republicans in their coverage led to this outcome. The NYT granted a larger microphone to the GOP than to the Democrats, and they used it to heavily criticize Obama.