28 May 2008

If Blogs Really Lead the Way, We May be in for a Surprise…

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

Over the past month or so, we’ve reported that Hillary Clinton’s mentions in the media have declined in tandem with the likelihood of her nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate. We’ve also seen in our media analysis a tendency for issues to take hold in the blogs and boards before they hit the mainstream media (the Wright controversy, for example). This week we took a look at the relative mentions of the three remaining candidates in both mainstream and social media, and we were quite surprised at what we found on the blogs and boards.

Two weeks ago (May 13-19), Clinton’s coverage on blogs and boards hit a low point as she received just a 25% share, with McCain finally rising to second place with 29% and Obama padding his already comfortable lead to 46%. But in the most recent seven-day period (May 20-26), Clinton jumped back into second place on the blogs and boards with 30%, compared to McCain who stayed level at 29%. At the same time, Obama’s lead shrank to 41% from 46%, so clearly the Clinton mentions came at the expense of Obama’s coverage.

Having dropped their discussion of Clinton to such low levels just a week earlier, social media appears to be ahead of the curve again: some protesting her continued presence in the race, others urging her to fight on, many railing against her remarks about Robert F. Kennedy and weighing the pros and cons of a possible vice presidency.

Methodology: Figures in the chart reflect mentions of the three candidates in postings on 2 million of the most influential blogs and more than 6,000 message boards between March 25 and May 26. Figures in Table 1 reflect the same mentions for the most recent four weeks only.

…While Mainstream Press Coverage Shows More a Predictable Trend

Meanwhile, Clinton’s coverage in the mainstream press has shrunk slowly in the weeks since the May 5 primaries. In the most recent seven-day period (May 20-26), Clinton’s share of all mentions fell 2 percentage points to 32%, while McCain gained two percentage points to 27%, and Obama slipped by one point to 41%.

Methodology: Figures in Chart 2 reflect mentions of the three candidates in 6,000 mainstream publications analyzed by Dow Jones Insight between March 25 and May 26. Figures in Table 2 reflect the same mentions for the most recent four weeks only.

Red State/Blue State Issues Coverage Similar But Shows Some Key Differences

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

With all the talk in the 2004 election about the differing concerns and electorates of Red States vs. Blue States, or those considered to be solidly democratic or republican states, Dow Jones Insight took a look at how the coverage by mainstream media in those states differed on some of the more controversial domestic “wedge” issues. (“Wedge” issues being social or political issues, often of a divisive or otherwise controversial nature, that split apart, or create a "wedge," in the support base of a political group.) While the results showed that the coverage had more in common than was different – on the issue of faith in particular – there were a few key areas where coverage levels between the two groups varied, in expected ways.

Blue States had more coverage about the environment (20% of total coverage for all candidates on the five wedge issues vs 18% in the Red States press) and on same-sex marriage (3% of total coverage on the issues vs 2% in the Red States press). Red States, meanwhile, had higher coverage on immigration (13% of all wedge issue coverage in Red vs 11% in Blue) and abortion (6% vs 5%). Faith was virtually equal, with Red States at 61% and Blue States at 60% on high volumes relative to the other issues.

The most noticeable differences overall involved McCain, who had higher coverage on immigration in the Red States press (20% of his total coverage on the five issues in Red States) than in Blue States (18% of his issues-related coverage), and higher coverage on same-sex marriage in Blue States (4% of all McCain coverage on the five issues) than in Red (3%), a small percentage overall but representing a disparity of 33%.

* Blue States are defined as those that were carried by the Democrats in all four of the most recent presidential elections: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin. Red States are defined as those that were carried by the GOP in all four of the most recent presidential elections: Alaska, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

Methodology: Figures in Chart 3 reflect mentions of the three candidates in close proximity (about 50 words) to terms related to the five tracked issues occurring in newspapers, Web sites, and television and radio broadcasts originating in the states listed for each group. Note that not all 50 U.S. states are included in the two groups.

19 May 2008

It's all there in black and white -- Clinton Tallies Drop Dramatically

By Glenn Fannick
Dow Jones Insight Staff
A low point in press coverage for Hillary Clinton came on Friday May 16.

That day marked one of the lowest tallies in headline coverage for her in quite a while. Her name only made it to the top of 67 articles found in the more than 6,000 mainstream publications analyzed by Dow Jones Insight. That day’s data also showed that John McCain passed her in headline coverage for the first time in months, with 174 articles mentioning him in the headline.

The gap between Clinton and Obama in headline counts also became dramatic Friday -- Obama had 322 articles with his name in a large font. Not since March 21 (when Obama was getting headlines because of his passport records being breached) was the gap so large between him and Clinton in headline mentions.

And it isn't just headline writers who are focusing less on Clinton as her presidential goal continues to fade. The total number of raw mentions of the three candidates in the mainstream media also shows Clinton slipping out of the picture. During the period of Thursday to Monday, May 15-19, Obama has clearly opened a gap with Clinton in journalist mindshare. Obama had 8,203 mentions in that period to Clinton’s 5,537. During the previous Thursday to Monday, the two were nearly evenly matched in raw mentions.
Methodology: Total media coverage includes analysis of more than 6,000 publications. The concept of “mentions” is a tally of individual occurrences of the candidate’s name within the body of the article.

13 May 2008

Handwriting on the Wall for Clinton?

Dow Jones Insight Staff
We don’t know if it’s on the wall, but it’s on the Dow Jones Insight Discovery Chart for Hillary Clinton (below). Over the past two days, the most common newly discovered terms occurring in close proximity* to Clinton’s name are quite telling, to say the least.

Press mentions of “once-imposing lead,” “big problem” and “worst thing” probably say it all, but several of the less-obvious terms listed in the chart also indicate it may finally be over for Clinton’s presidential run: as Obama added four “more endorsements,” including two from “Virgin Islands” superdelegates who had previously endorsed Clinton, he exceed Clinton in the superdelegate count for the first time. Meanwhile, Obama strategist “David Axelrod” very clearly turned his campaign’s attention toward McCain, though Clinton strategist “Howard Wolfson” vowed to continue on.

* “Close proximity” is defined as within about 50 words.

Smaller Field Not Yet Helping McCain’s Coverage

Dow Jones Insight Staff

With most now conceding that the presidential election has become a two-horse race, we thought we’d see if the election coverage was beginning to reflect the new reality. One would expect that McCain’s share, which had been low in comparison to the battling Democrats in our previous analyses, would improve in relation to Obama’s, with Obama and McCain focusing more directly on one another. However, that assumption has proved wrong, at least so far.

From May 1 to May 5 – the five days leading up to the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, when Clinton’s chances to win the nomination looked stronger – McCain had 18,265 mentions in all tracked media versus 32,822 for Obama. That translated into a 36% share for McCain versus 64% for Obama (when considering those articles in which one or the other, or both, were mentioned). From May 8 to May 12 – the most recent five-day period since the primaries – McCain has received 13,496 mentions to Obama’s 23,337, for a share of 37%, narrowing the gap by just a single percentage point.

McCain did a slightly better job narrowing the gap when considering headline mentions only, though his overall share of headline coverage was lower than it was for all press mentions. Before the primaries, McCain had 6,660 headline mentions in all tracked sources, or 23% of the total, versus 22,457, or 77%, for Obama. Post-primaries, McCain raised his share to 26%, or 5,061, compared with 14,492, or 74% for Obama, for a three-percentage-point improvement.

Still, the results lead us to wonder if the McCain team either doesn’t think it’s quite over for Hillary or just hasn’t pushed hard against their remaining opponent. Either way, they’re going to have to work harder to get their candidate a competitive share of coverage.

Methodology: Sources include more than 6,000 newspapers, wires, magazines, radio and TV transcripts; more than 13,000 current-awareness news Web sites; 2 million of the most influential blogs; and more than 6,000 message boards.

Blogs Ahead of the Curve Again?

Dow Jones Insight Staff
Since the May 5 primaries, McCain has received a slightly more competitive share of coverage versus Obama in blogs than he has in all tracked media. With Clinton still a factor (May 1-5), McCain had 2,987 mentions in blogs, or 36% of the total McCain/Obama coverage, versus 5,383 mentions, or 64% of the total, for Obama, matching his share of mentions in all media. But in the most recent five days post-primary (May 8-12), McCain had 2,101 mentions in blogs, or 38%, versus 3,491, or 62%, for Obama.

Either way, McCain has gotten a bit closer to his fair share in the blogs than in the mainstream press.

Methodology: Reflects Obama and McCain mentions from 2 million of the most influential blogs.

Some Surprises on Global Issues

Dow Jones Insight Staff
Now that the primary battles are coming to an end, the candidates likely will begin to focus more of their attention on the crucial issues that will be faced by the next president rather than the more tangential matters they’ve highlighted recently to cut down their opponents. How have they fared recently on some key global issues?

Over the past month, Obama has largely owned the “terrorism” issue in the tracked mainstream press sources, for better and for worse. (“Owned” in this context means his name occurred in close proximity* to specific terms associated with the issue.) His coverage was driven in part by articles referencing his pastor’s comments, the McCain-fueled controversy over Hamas’s endorsement of him and his comments that he would meet with Iran, Cuba and North Korea if he were elected (which also drove him to be the candidate most closely associated with North Korea). Clinton led the way on Iran with her controversial comments about “obliterating” Iran should it attack Israel. McCain, despite being the most in favor of the war in Iraq, was actually the least associated of the three candidates with the issue of Iraq over the past month.

* “Close proximity” is defined as within about 50 words