16 September 2008

Higher Overall Coverage for McCain Translates to Wins on Additional Issues

Dow Jones Insight Staff

Media coverage of the campaign issues being tracked by Dow Jones Insight surged again in the most recent rolling 30-day period, as the trend in issues ownership toward “red” reflected the overall increase in McCain-related coverage.

In the period August 15 – September 15, McCain had a note-worthy edge (for our purposes, six percentage points or greater) in 17 of the 25 issues being tracked, up from six in our previous analysis. Among the issues he added were the economy, taxes, terrorism, health care and abortion (each with a split of 54% for McCain to 46% for Obama), as well as energy (59% to 41%) and the environment (56% to 44%). Obama owned just five issues, down from seven last time out, and added no new issues. Still on the Obama side of the issues ledger were faith, race, Israel, gun control and Nafta. The two on which he lost the lead were health care, which went to McCain, and fundraising, which was too close to call (note that the parameters of this analysis differ from the fundraising discussion above in both time period and number of candidates considered).

Education moved up five spots from our last analysis, though the split between candidates was fairly even. Both had made education a key element of their acceptance speeches and recent stump speeches, and both had controversies arise over sex education, or at least claims by the other side about their record on sex education. The issue of terrorism also rose three places, reflecting numerous convention speeches as well as the seventh anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks. Energy and fuel prices fell back in the rankings, to ninth and 16th positions from fifth and 11th, respectively, as gas prices at the pump eased a bit from their July highs (before spiking briefly near the end of the tracked period due to Hurricane Ike); both issues went from being too close to call last time around to being dominated by McCain.

Total issues-based coverage was up 22% in the latest timeframe, reaching 1,137,582 mentions of all 25 issues compared with 934,408.

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 August 15 to September 15, 2008. To demonstrate change in “ownership” of issues, these data were compared with the period of August 1 to September 1. 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 19,000 English-language mainstream media print and Web sources, more than 60,000 English-language message boards and 2 million blogs.

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