30 September 2008

Bailout-Related Language Dominates List of Newly Identified Phrases in Election Media Coverage, but Debate Also Makes a Splash

Dow Jones Insight Staff

Not surprisingly, turmoil in the U.S. financial markets was the subject of much of the candidates’ media coverage in the past week, and this dominance revealed itself in the list of terms and phrases newly identified by Dow Jones Insight as having appeared frequently in association with the two candidates. Terms associated with the first presidential debate – some related to the crisis, some not – also made the list.

The financial coverage appeared both directly, as in discussions of the proposed industry bailout and the takeover of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and indirectly, as when John McCain skipped an appearance on David Letterman in favor of one with Katie Couric on the CBS Evening News.

In mainstream media sources (press and Web) during the period September 22-29, “Wall Street” was mentioned in proximity to McCain’s name 5,807 times and near Obama’s name 4,930 times. The phrase “economic crisis” occurred 2,303 times near McCain and 1,517 times near Obama, while “bailout plan” was discussed 1,839 times in proximity to McCain and 1,319 to Obama. “Congressional leaders,” who were involved in formulating the plan, turned up 2,224 times in conjunction with McCain and 2,068 with Obama.

In social media sources (blogs and boards) many of the same terms were identified, but there were additional terms unique to the social media list. For example, citizen journalists focused more on the two candidates’ controversial connections to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than the mainstream press did in terms of the rankings, as both phrases landed near the top of the social media lists. These sites mentioned “Fannie Mae” or “Fannie” 2,299 times near McCain and 1,921 times near Obama, and “Freddie Mac” 2,040 times near McCain and 906 times near Obama. Variations on Katie Couric’s and David Letterman’s names also made the top 10 for McCain, with the discussion of McCain’s non-appearance driving the Letterman coverage (855 mentions) while Couric’s (1,088 of “Couric” and 992 of “Katie Couric”) involved both the Letterman issue as well as coverage of Couric’s interview of vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Of the terminology related to the debates, “presidential debate” appeared in the top 10 for both candidates in both media types – 4,542 for Obama in mainstream sources, 2,045 in blogs and boards; and 5,415 for McCain in mainstream sources and 2,045 in blogs and boards. Afghanistan also appeared on both lists for both candidates; in mainstream press it was mentioned 1,106 times near McCain and 995 times near Obama, while in social media it received 854 mentions with McCain and 705 with Obama. Oxford, the Mississippi city in which the debate was held, made the two mainstream press lists.

Methodology: “Discovered” terms include commonly identified phrases not already tracked as subjects in the Dow Jones Insight presidential election platform. 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.

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