In major print media, coverage of policy issues has overtaken coverage of the campaign and candidate-centric discussion for the first time this since the beginning of the GOP primary. Starting in June, election coverage has shifted more toward policy issues such as the economy, social issues, and immigration.
Presence of campaign-centric issues (grey), such as discussion of horse race, campaign strategy and debates, and candidate-centric issues (orange) such as candidate character and religion, has steadily decreased in election coverage in print media since the end of the GOP primary. During the month of January, statements on campaign and candidate issues consisted of about 75% of election coverage in major print media. In the month of June, discussion of these topics was down to just 40% of election coverage.
Since the unofficial beginning of the General Election (after Santorum dropped out of the GOP race), discussion of policy issues in print coverage of the election has become more frequent, and there has been significant drop in coverage of campaign and candidate issues. From January 1 to April 16, 70% of statements in election coverage were about campaign and candidate issues. From April 17 to June 22, those two topics consisted of just 56% of election coverage.
There have been bursts of coverage on policy issues including the economy, immigration, foreign policy, healthcare and social issues such as gay marriage and contraception. In contrast with the GOP Primary, the injection of these policy issues into the General Election season coverage has created an environment where the media has amplified issues of more ‘policy’ substance.