The economy has been the overarching issue of this year’s election cycle. Mitt Romney has attacked Obama for not being able to improve the economy more quickly, and Obama has framed Romney’s economic policies as a return to the past. But just how big of an issue has it been in media coverage?

Economy Coverage Has Risen and Fallen with Jobs Reports

Chart shows percentage of statements about the economy in election media coverage over time.  Monthly BLS job report releases indicated by dates.  Time frame is April 1-October 30.

Chart shows percentage of statements about the economy in election media coverage over time. Monthly BLS job report releases indicated by dates. Time frame is April 1-October 30.

Well, there has been a visible impact in the discourse of media coverage when a new jobs report is released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With the release of each monthly report, coverage of the economy has spiked, every time. Almost every single increase in coverage of the economy shown on this chart occurs simultaneously with the release of a jobs report. Coverage of the economy reached its peak following the release of the May jobs report on June 1st.

Obama & Romney Have Discussed the Economy the Most

Chart shows percentage of statements from Mitt Romney and Barack Obama broken out by topic.  Time frame is April 1-October 30.

Chart shows percentage of statements from Mitt Romney and Barack Obama broken out by topic. Time frame is April 1-October 30.

In media coverage since April 1st, statements about the economy have been the most frequent to come out of the candidates mouths. Over 20% of statements from Mitt Romney and Barack Obama from April 1-October 30 have been about the economy. For the two presidential hopefuls, it has dwarfed the discussion of any other topic, even discussion of character and campaign issues such as strategy and horse race.

Other fiscal issues that are tangentially related to discussion of the economy are Entitlements, Taxes, and Budget. They are shown separately in our data. Combined, these three issues were discussed 12.8% of the time by Obama and Romney in media coverage of the election. Therefore, it could be said that the fiscal issues of this year’s election (Economy, Entitlements, Taxes, Budget) were discussed by the candidates 34.2% of the time in election media coverage. In other words, about one out of every three statements to come out of the candidates’ mouths in coverage from April 1-October 30 was fiscal-related.

Discussion of Economy Has Elicited the Most Opinion Among 3rd Party Newsmakers

Chart shows percentage of statements from 3rd party newsmakers (those outside of the campaigns) with sentiment toward Obama or Romney (excluding neutral statements), broken down by topic.  Time frame is April 1-October 30.

Chart shows percentage of statements from 3rd party newsmakers (those outside of the campaigns) with sentiment toward Obama or Romney (excluding neutral statements), broken down by topic. Time frame is April 1-October 30.

Not only were Romney and Obama discussing the Economy more than any other issue, but so were third-party newsmakers (those outside of the campaigns). 32.3% of statements from third-party newsmakers with sentiment toward Obama or Romney were about the economy. The economy elicited the most statements with opinion out of any other issue discussed.