Study finds McCain coverage more negative

The media hasn’t been “in the tank” for Barack Obama so much as it has been down on John McCain, according to a new study.

Conservatives and Republicans have been complaining since the primaries of unfairly favorable or preferential press treatment for the Democratic presidential contender. But the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has found that media reports are slightly — but not significantly — more positive about Obama.

“Coverage of McCain, in contrast, has been decidedly unfavorable and has worsened over time,” the Pew study concluded. “In the six weeks between the conventions and the final debate, negative stories about McCain outweigh favorable Obama stories by more than three to one, making McCain the most unfavorable of the candidates studied.”

Approximately 36% of stories about Obama were favorable, 35% were neutral and 29% were negative. For McCain, nearly 60% of stories were negative and only 14% positive.

Reports about McCain were initially positive but took a decidedly critical turn following his response to the economic crisis, according to the study.

The researchers also found that the amount of press coverage of GOP veep nominee Sarah Palin has been markedly less than coverage of the presidential candidates, with the tone of the Palin reports split 39% negative vs. 28% positive. The remaining 33% were found to be neutral.

“Joe Biden, meanwhile, was nearly the invisible man,” the researchers said. “He had just one large moment — the vice presidential debate — which offered his only positive or neutral contribution. Aside from that week, the limited coverage he did receive was far more negative than Palin’s, and nearly as negative as McCain’s.”

The Pew study was based on more than 2,000 print, television, radio and online stories that have appeared since the end of both political conventions.

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