07 August 2008

Obama Still Leading Big Picture Media Race Despite Noise to the Contrary

By Glenn Fannick
Dow Jones Insight Staff

While there has been much talk by pundits about how McCain has been catching up with Obama in certain areas of media coverage as well as in the polls, the Dow Jones Insight analysis of the overall media landscape shows Obama still dominating mainstream and social media coverage of most issues.

Looking at the period of July 6 to August 6, 2008, our analysis shows that Obama continues to receive more coverage than McCain in 10 of the 25 issues being tracked*. McCain leads in four of the 25. The other 11 are too close to call. But perhaps more importantly, the issues Obama “owns” are also among the most discussed (6 of the top 10 are his; the other four are ties) while the four in which McCain leads are in the bottom seven slots.

Of the 11 issues that are too close to call – defined as those that differ by six or fewer percentage points – two significant issues (energy and fuel prices) were previously McCain’s while the other four (health care, abortion, Nafta and North Korea) were Obama’s during the period of June 20 to July 20. Energy is one of Obama’s two stated areas of focus for the week (the other being the economy) and while he has cut into McCain’s lead on energy, coverage of the economy is still pretty much even.

Obama’s lead holds when the data are sliced various ways, as well. In the period of July 30 to August 6, he has more coverage of domestic issues both on blogs and in the press; of international issues both on blogs and in the press; of wedge issues; more coverage in local press in the Red States, Blue States and the Swing States; and he still leads in the all-important “headline mentions” race.

However, the talk shows and pundits are talking about McCain catching up. So what are they seeing? It is possible to conclude that growth in Obama’s lead is slowing. When analyzing the number of daily mentions over the period of July 6 to August 6, we see that the trend lines for both candidates are rising more or less in tandem. But in the weeks before July 6, Obama’s upward trend was much steeper than McCain’s. In other words, Obama does seem to be gathering more mentions each day at a slower rate than before.

* Methodology: This analysis looks at 25 selected issues that occurred within 50 words of at least one of the candidates’ names during the period of July 6 to August 6, 2008. To demonstrate change in “ownership” of issues, these data were compared with the period of June 20 to July 20. We opted to take a 30-day snapshot approximately every two weeks to flatten out any spikes in data that could be attributed to a single day anomaly in the data. The data come from approximately 18,000 English-language mainstream media print and Web sources, more than 50,000 English-language message boards and 2 million blogs.

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