Dow Jones Insight Staff
The media conversation around Barack Obama not surprisingly changed in the week following Election Day. During the period of November 5 to 11, the coverage of “taxes” took a nosedive in the mainstream media, going from approximately 16,000 mentions for Obama in the week before Election Day to 6,000 the week after. Other issues that lost traction were abortion and immigration – each losing about one-third of their volume in a week.
But the economy and the financial bailout as well as the environment were being talked about even more than before the election.
International issues gaining coverage in the context of the president-elect included Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Israel, while Iraq showed no change from the week before Election Day.
As expected, Obama’s mainstream media coverage on the whole increased dramatically in the week following Election Day. For all the coverage he and McCain received in the weeks and months leading up to the presidential election, the week after the election proved to be even more focused on the new president. Media mentions of Obama peaked during the week of November 5 to 11 (185,000 mentions of Obama coming from Dow Jones Insight’s 20,000 tracked publications and Web sites.) In fact, that week’s tally was double that of the highest previous week (August 25 to 31, when he received 94,000 mentions). On average, the post-election-week mentions of Obama were about four times the average of all weeks since Super Tuesday.
For obvious reasons, Obama received more than double the mainstream media mentions of McCain in the week of November 5 to 11 (185,000 to 78,000). And while President Bush had lost the already-small “presidential mindshare” in the two weeks before the election – dropping from an early autumn average of 6,800 mentions a week to 3,000 in the last two weeks of October – he gained it back in the week after the election, rising to 6,900 mentions.
Election Day perhaps marked the beginning of the end of “Joe the Plumber’s” 15 minutes of fame. Coverage of this symbol of what McCain said was wrong with Obama’s tax plan fell from a high of about 9,988 mentions in the week of October 15 to 21, when Joe first came on the scene, to 680 during the post-Election Day week of November 5 to 11.
It should be noted, however, that “hope” and “change,” two of Obama’s calling cards, remain on an upward path, with their post-election numbers higher than the highs before November 4. “Change” alone went from 10,000 mentions two weeks before the election to 25,000 in the week after the election.
In the weeks and months leading up to Election Day much of the coverage was about the economy in one way or another. In our final pre Election Day analysis, 46% of all issues-related coverage of the candidates involved the economy, with coverage of other domestic issues (16%), candidate-specific issues (24%) and the wars (13%) running far behind.
But looking at Obama coverage only in the week before and the week after the election, the percentages and rankings shift in small but telling ways. Talk of the economic crisis and the non-economic domestic issues, when taken as a group, slipped slightly from week to week while foreign policy-related issues – topics on which Obama had both supporters and vociferous critics – jumped and topics related to Obama as a candidate (such as faith and fundraising) fell.
Specifically, in the week before the election, issues surrounding the economic crisis represented 43% of the total Obama issues-related coverage, but that fell to 42% in the week following. Domestic issues, meanwhile, represented 22% of the total before the election and a slightly lower 21% after, despite a surge in coverage of Obama in conjunction with same-sex marriage as the media discussed whether Obama’s high turnout in California had impacted the results of that state’s public question on same-sex marriage. The surge in that issue nearly offset large declines in Obama-related coverage on health care, abortion, immigration and Social Security.
War and foreign-policy issues taken as a group rose from 15% of the total before the election to 19% after the election, largely reflecting increased talk of Obama in conjunction with Afghanistan and Iraq. Candidate-specific issues fell from 20% before Nov. 4 to 18% after, as talk of fundraising in particular fell off dramatically.