28 October 2008

Obama Extends or Holds Onto ‘Headline’ Leads in Several Battlegrounds States – Except Pennsylvania

By Glenn Fannick
Dow Jones Insight Staff

If John McCain is hoping that the national polls are overstating his opponent’s lead and that he’ll get the electoral math to tip his way on the only day that matters, he won’t find too much solace in local press coverage in a handful of battleground states. Because here, as with almost every other way the media coverage is sliced, Barack Obama was ahead in the media race during the past week.

In the period of October 19 to 25 versus the previous week, the Democrat increased his lead in total number of headline mentions in four battleground states – Nevada (by 21 percentage points, on the heels of visits by him and his wife), North Carolina (by 10 points), Florida (4 points) and Missouri (3 points). He lost ground, though, in Colorado (where his lead shrunk by 6 percentage points, on a strong push by McCain there), Ohio (2 points) and Pennsylvania (2 points).

And it is Pennsylvania – where Obama has a comfortable lead in public polls, but where the McCain camp insists its private polls put the state at a dead heat – which appears the closest in the headline race. The week of October 19 to 25 showed a 51%-49% split barely leaning Obama’s way. That is a 2-percentage-point drop there for Obama.

And what are those reporters writing about in Pennsylvania? Like everywhere else, it’s kitchen-table issues, with the economy and taxes in the top two slots. As to how Pennsylvania’s coverage differs, it’s not dramatic, but the data show slight variation. The issue of “experience” shows up in the top 10, which was not the case in the other battleground states when taken as a group.

The everyman message of “Joe the plumber” still resonates in Pennsylvania as in the other battlegrounds, getting mentioned more than the issues of jobs, health care and the financial bailout. International issues, including both wars, did not make the top 10.

Methodology: Sources include selected newspapers, newspaper Web sites and broadcast outlets in each state. The past two weeks were compared and the two periods saw similar number of articles written in each state.

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