24 June 2008

Campaign-Finance Decisions Causing Trouble for Both Candidates

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

Obama is enjoying a tremendous lead in money raised to support his campaign, but he also seems to be winning the battle for favorable coverage on the issue of fundraising itself, which took a rather contentious turn last week.

Obama announced June 19 that he would not take public financing for the general election, a decision that means he is free to spend the record-breaking several hundred million dollars he’s raised thus far. The McCain camp says that announcement is a reversal of a pledge he’d made earlier in the campaign. McCain, meanwhile, has raised far less overall and plans to accept public financing.

Obama has received quite a bit of bad press over the announcement and has been labeled a flip-flopper by some. But it appears that the discussion of McCain’s resulting financing disadvantage, plus some finger-pointing at McCain by the Obama team as it defended the decision, has ultimately outweighed the flip-flopper criticism and produced more negative language in association with McCain than with Obama. Obama said his campaign would need the additional funds in expectation of future anti-Obama ads that would need to be rebutted and noted that McCain himself, a well-known campaign-finance reformer, was still taking money from lobbyists and PACs.

For the five days after Obama’s announcement (June 19-23), Dow Jones Insight identified 1,118 press documents mentioning Obama and/or McCain in proximity to terms related to campaign finance, and the automated favorability-analysis feature found 538 of these documents to contain either favorable or unfavorable language dominating in reference to the candidate and issue.

Looking only at this non-neutral coverage, we found that Obama was discussed unfavorably on the topic of fundraising in 249 separate articles, or 86% of his total non-neutral coverage, while just 42 articles, or 14%, discussed Obama and financing using favorable language. But McCain fared worse, as 222 articles, or 90% of his non-neutral coverage, was unfavorable, and just 25 documents, or 10%, were favorable.

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 538 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.

‘Race’ is Most Discussed Obama Issue in Press, and a Close Second in Social Media

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

It’s stating the obvious to say that race will be a factor in November’s election, but we are surprised at how the issue has been playing out comparatively in the press and social media and in relation to other key issues, according to analysis by Dow Jones Insight.

We examined Obama’s coverage in relation to the issue of race over the past 14 days, limiting the timeframe in an effort to exclude the initial bump of post-nomination commentary about the historic nature of the nomination and focus instead on how the media has been covering race in comparison to other current high-profile issues as the campaign moves into the nuts-and-bolts phase of getting elected.

In the mainstream press (print and Web) during the period June 10 through June 23, race was the top attention-getter in relation to Obama, edging out coverage of the faltering economy. Race was discussed in proximity to Obama’s name on 5,101 occasions, just barely exceeding the 5,020 mentions of the economy. Taxes and fundraising were also well-covered topics in articles about Obama, with 4,528 and 4,090 mentions, respectively. (See the next post for further insight on the fundraising issue.)

In social-media sources, meanwhile, race was a close second in terms of number of mentions in conjunction with Obama with 4,265, trailing faith-related discussions, which totaled 4,412 mentions. Both faith and race reflected continuing rumors and denials about Obama’s religious affiliation, his apologies to two Muslim women wearing head scarves who were asked to change seats at a rally, and reports on the Father’s Day speech he made in a Chicago church. As it did in the mainstream press, fundraising ranked high, with 2,547 mentions, while the economy and taxes lagged far behind with just 1,928 and 1,898 mentions, respectively.

Methodology: Mainstream press sources include more than 6,000 newspapers, wires, magazines, radio and TV transcripts and more than 13,000 current-awareness news Web sites. Social media sources include 2 million of the most influential blogs and more than 60,000 message boards. Issues shown reflect the top coverage generators from among domestic issues for each source type discussed.

18 June 2008

McCain Still Struggling to Get as Much Press as Obama

By Glenn Fannick

Dow Jones Insight Staff

Will McCain ever catch up to Obama in media coverage? For months it seemed he was often relegated to the inside pages and mentioned fewer times or in shorter pieces as the media and the public focused on what was called a historic race between Clinton and Obama. The McCain team recognized their struggle to be noticed, announcing a push in April to get him back in the media's sights. It failed. His coverage remained flat.

It was Clinton’s continued candidacy, people assumed, that was keeping McCain tomorrow's story. As soon as she dropped out, his camp certainly hoped McCain would be getting equal billing.

And to some extent we are seeing things change. Obama's media lead has been shrinking a bit in the past week or so; but with two weeks since the Democratic primaries ended and 10 days since Clinton officially ended her campaign for the presidency, the numbers still show Obama ahead of McCain in virtually every way we slice the numbers.

Dow Jones Insight tracked 54,920 mentions of the two candidates' names over the past seven days from about 20,000 mainstream (print and online) media sources. Obama accounted for about 56% of those mentions compared to McCain's 44%. In the two million social media sites analyzed, Dow Jones Insight found Obama’s lead a few percentage points narrower, however, with 55% of total mentions for Obama compared to 45% for McCain.

The only place McCain seems to be talked about more is on the talk shows on MSNBC, where he consistently outpaces the Democrats in individual mentions. The other networks analyzed (Fox News Channel and CNN) continue to talk about Obama more than McCain on their regular political shows.

If you compare the quality of coverage of the two candidates in all media, you see perhaps a more telling picture. While McCain is slowly closing in on Obama in the number of times each is mentioned, a larger gap exists when you look at headline mentions. Obama was mentioned in 16,196 headlines in our survey from June 11 to 17, while McCain had only 9,264 mentions – a 64% / 36% split.
Methodology: Mainstream press sources include more than 6,000 newspapers, wires, magazines, radio and TV transcripts and more than 13,000 current-awareness news Web sites. Social media sources include 2 million of the most influential blogs and more than 60,000 message boards.

'Change' is Unchanged on Top of 'Hot-Button' Word List

By Glenn Fannick
Dow Jones Insight Staff

In the Dow Jones Insight index of hot-button words, we see "change" again leading the pack in the period of June 11 to June 17, with 4,747 occurrences in the context of one or the other of the candidates (62% of those were alongside Obama). In second with about half as many mentions was "hope" (this time 60% of those were with Obama). "Experience" was a close third, with McCain getting 56% of those mentions. "Progress," a word McCain tried to use as a counter to "change," did not show forward movement and was fourth; the candidates split that one. The negative issues that were previous high-fliers continued to lag: "bitter," "divisive" and "elitist/elitism" all had scant mentions. And "electability," once an issue everyone focused on, was hardly mentioned last week.

Also of note: The Obama camp has been trying to attach McCain to President Bush whenever it can. While not a hot-button word per se, we are tracking that along with the others. There were only 205 mentions of that concept in seven days.

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

10 June 2008

And the Winner Is…

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

If media coverage equals mindshare equals votes – or if any publicity really is good publicity – then the nomination was Obama’s all along, as he easily outpaced Clinton in mentions in both the traditional press (print, online and Web) and the social media (blogs and boards) during the primary period as a whole.

From Super Tuesday on February 5 through Friday, June 6, the last day on which Clinton was officially in the race, Obama received 756,281 total mentions in mainstream press sources, or 52% of all mentions for the two Democrats, compared with 700,704 mentions, or 48% of the total, for Clinton. (McCain, meanwhile, was mentioned just 476,885 times, having spent the past couple of months on the sidelines).

On the blogs and boards, Obama was mentioned 268,916 times, or 57% of the Democrat’s total, compared with Clinton’s 205,805, or 43%. (By comparison, McCain had 160,410).

Methodology: Mainstream press sources included 1,933,870 total mentions in 1,296,597 unique documents identified from more than 6,000 newspapers, wires, magazines, radio and TV transcripts and more than 13,000 current-awareness news Web sites. Social media sources included 635,131 total mentions in 418,234 unique documents found on 2 million of the most influential blogs and more than 6,000 message boards.

Obama’s Strengths? Faith and Fundraising

By Dow Jones Insight Staff

As the election officially became a two-man race after Hillary Clinton withdrew her candidacy over the weekend, the two nominees continued turning their attention more pointedly toward one another – and the issues they believe will help them win in November. Based on data from the tracked social media in the past eight days, their efforts have resonated clearly on certain issues.

Obama dominated even more than usual on the issue of faith over the past eight days, with 2,423 mentions of his name occurring in close proximity* to faith-related terms, representing some 40% of his total issues-related coverage, compared to McCain’s 953 mentions, or 23% of his issues coverage.

A number of events drove the chatter, including Obama’s announcement that he and his family had cut ties with their Chicago church and his condemnation of a visiting priest’s sermon mocking Clinton, as well as efforts to court the Jewish vote with a speech to a pro-Israel group in which he outlined his proposed strategy for the Middle East, which includes being, as the now pro-Obama Clinton put it, “a good friend to Israel.”

On the issue of fundraising, Obama exceeded McCain in mentions by almost as much as he has in actual funds raised after he announced a ban on lobbyist and PAC donations to the Democratic National Committee, as part of his effort to portray McCain as beholden to special interests due to his ties with lobbyists. Obama received 814 mentions on the topic of fundraising, or about 14% of his overall issues coverage, compared with 399 mentions, or just 10%, for McCain. However, more isn’t always better, as the conviction of a one-time Obama fundraiser for fraud and money-laundering also helped boost his lead on the issue.

McCain held clear leads on the blogs and boards in terms of taxes and the economy, with both driven in part by his efforts to distance himself from the Bush economic policies while the Obama team continues to link them. McCain’s continued support for a gas-tax holiday for the summer also received coverage.

On the economy, McCain was mentioned 815 times on the blogs and boards during the tracked period, or 20% of his total coverage on all issues, compared to 558 mentions, or 9%, for Obama. On the tax issue, McCain saw 553 mentions, or 7% of his total issues coverage, while Obama received 439 mentions, or 7%.

*Close proximity is within about 50 words.

Methodology: Sources analyzed include 2 million of the most influential blogs and more than 6,000 message boards. Issues shown are the 10 most active domestic issues for the two candidates over the analyzed period. Percentages are based on the total number of mentions for those 10 issues.

04 June 2008

Local Press Continue to Show only Slightest Tendency to Reflect their Readers' Voting Records

By Glenn Fannick
Dow Jones Insight Staff

The Obama camp has been in general-election campaign mode for some time, seeing Clinton as no longer a threat some weeks ago. Therefore that's where our media analysis is focused.

When looking at how much media attention has been given to Obama versus McCain over the past few weeks, it really has been no contest. While McCain has been slowly gaining in press mentions each week at Clinton's expense, Obama continues to garner nearly two-thirds of mentions in the head-to-head comparison.

That doesn't change when dividing the country along the now-quite-familiar Red-Blue battle lines. The recent presidential voting records of the states continue to show only the slightest correlation with the volume of local press coverage a candidate receives.

When comparing John McCain's and Barack Obama's media mentions over the period of May 28 to June 4, we see McCain received about 40% of press mentions in Red States -- those which have voted Republican in the past four presidential elections -- and 39% in Blue States -- those with the opposite recent historical record.

Michelle Obama Winning First Lady Race

By Glenn Fannick
Dow Jones Insight Staff

As the primaries end and the general election becomes the candidates' focus, not only does Barack Obama continue to top John McCain in media mentions in every way we slice the data, but his wife is also consistently way out ahead of McCain's wife.

Michelle Obama has received more mentions in both the mainstream press and social media than has Cindy McCain. Obama received 70% of mentions to McCain's 30%, comparing the two senators’ wives across the 2 million blogs and message boards analyzed by Dow Jones Insight between May 3 and June 2. The mainstream press was only slightly less skewed in coverage of the candidates' wives, with 67% of mentions for Obama and 33% for McCain.

But there have been days when the first-lady tally in the press has flipped. Thrice in the past month Cindy McCain passed Michelle Obama in press mentions -- a feat that Sen. McCain rarely achieves over his rival. Topics that pushed her past Obama included the McCains' dinner party with vice-presidential hopefuls, the release of Sen. McCain's medical records and discussion of her personal tax returns and family wealth. Michelle Obama saw a recent spike in mentions after she became the target in a Tennessee-GOP-backed online video.

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.