30 September 2008

McCain, Obama Back on Top as Candidates Address Economy and Debate Takes Place as Scheduled; Palin Falls, Biden Stays Low

Dow Jones Insight Staff

As we reported in our previous analysis, by September 13 Sarah Palin’s coverage lead over the other three nominees was shrinking but still significant. In our latest trend analysis of mainstream and social media sources tracked by Dow Jones Insight, covering the period August 27 through September 27, that downward trend has for the most part continued while coverage of the two presidential candidates has risen.

As the week of September 15 unfolded – with Lehman Brothers declaring bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch being taken over by Bank of America, and panic over the financial markets escalating – the two presidential nominees ultimately re-emerged as the coverage leaders as they attempted to help lead the country out of crisis. Meanwhile, Palin’s coverage remained flat for most of that week but then resumed its overall downward trajectory as the McCain team reportedly moved to limit media access. Coverage of Democratic rival Joe Biden continued to register barely a blip.

The two presidential candidates’ coverage continued to increase the following week, in particular after the 24th when McCain announced plans to suspend his campaign, skip the debate, return to Washington and focus on helping solve the financial crisis. It rose further on the 25th as the Obama team accused McCain of grandstanding, and again on the 26th, as the debate was eventually held.

Most notably, toward the end of the tracked period Palin’s coverage appeared to be dropping to levels approaching that of Biden. The coverage peak she received on September 12, the day after her interview by ABC’s Charlie Gibson, gave way to a fairly steady decline. (Note that all candidates received lower coverage on September 6-7, 13-14, and 20-21, all of which were weekends.) Her interview with Katie Couric, broadcast on the 24th and 25th and considered by some to have been a poor showing by Palin, generated a barely perceptible bump in coverage. Biden, meanwhile, saw only the tiniest of coverage increases on the 23rd in the wake of his erroneous statements regarding the Great Depression and President Roosevelt. So whether by the design of their respective campaigns or by the happenstance of the worst economic crisis in decades, the media’s spotlight appears to be shining not all that brightly on the two candidates for vice president.

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.

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