Tracking mainstream media stories about the character and record of the presidential contenders, the study found that nearly three-fourths of coverage was negative.
An examination of narratives in the press about the character and record of presidential contenders found that 72 percent of the coverage has been negative for Barack Obama and 71 percent has been negative for Mitt Romney. The study, conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, examined the personal portrayal of the candidate in 50 major news outlets over a recent 10-week period.
“These numbers make this as negative a campaign as (the Pew Center) has seen since it began monitoring the master narratives about candidates in press coverage in presidential campaigns in 2000,” the study’s authors said, adding that it is only comparable to the 2004 campaign. During that time, news was filled with the controversy over the war in Iraq, the prison scandal at Abu Ghraib, and the Swift Boat documentaries.
The study also found that journalists are a shrinking source in shaping the candidate narratives, and campaigns and partisans have assumed a much larger role in defining the press coverage of the current campaign.