19 March 2008

Controversies Bolster Negative Language in Election Coverage

Pati Carson
Dow Jones Insight Staff

Controversy, not policy, drove much of the election coverage for the Democrats over the past week and a half, as a number of presidential supporters made news in ways that affected the candidates themselves.

Clinton supporters Eliot Spitzer and Geraldine Ferraro found themselves in the spotlight for unexpected reasons, while Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and foreign policy advisor, Samantha Power, were the subject of plenty of controversy for the senator.

In total, Clinton was mentioned in proximity to “Geraldine Ferraro” or “Ferraro” a total of 4,597 times during the analyzed period, in proximity to “Eliot Spitzer” or “Spitzer” 2,550 times, and near “Samantha Power” 1,465 times.

Obama, meanwhile, received 4,388 mentions in proximity to “Geraldine Ferraro” or “Ferraro,” and he was mentioned 3,183 times in proximity to “Rev Jeremiah Wright,” “Jeremiah Wright” or “Wright.” He was also mentioned 1,342 times near “Samantha Power.”

These assorted flaps contributed to a marked increase in negativity of mainstream press coverage, based on our review of the automated favorability analysis in Dow Jones Insight. Breaking the coverage down into two equal segments since our last favorability analysis, the system considered 83,528 press documents and found 30,406 of them to contain either favorable or unfavorable language dominating in reference to a particular candidate.

Looking only at non-neutral coverage, we found that:

March 7-12: Obama’s coverage was positive 24% of the time, up from 21% in the preceding weeklast period analyzed, while Clinton dropped to 13% from 21% and McCain fell to 20% from 24%. During this period, Obama’s advisor referred to Clinton as a “monster,” Ferraro made racially controversial remarks about Obama, and Spitzer was named in a prostitution scandal. All three resigned. Clinton’s coverage seems to have taken the bigger hit overall though, as Clinton was the target of one comment, the source-by-association-of another, and lost a super-delegate.

March 13-18: Obama’s positive coverage fell sharply to 9%, while Clinton’s slipped a bit further to 10% and McCain’s dropped to 12%. During this period, Obama’s association with his pastor was questioned by some, and all three candidates engaged in a war of words over Iraq.

Methodology: Favorability analysis is of English-language documents only and was generated by software-based analysis which has been shown to be 80% accurate in similar corpora. Favorable and unfavorable ratings are assigned based on the words found in close proximity to a candidate's name. All neutral documents were excluded. The remaining 30,406 documents are those with discernible favorability. The source set excludes social media and press releases and includes global English language newspapers, magazines, broadcast transcripts and newswires.

1 comment:

Create Cleavage and Lift! said...

Breaking the coverage down into two equal segments last favorability analysis.
Negative Language and Elections