24 June 2008

‘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.

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