The Charts That Should Accompany All Discussions of Media Bias

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They are the ones presented this morning by John Sides, drawing on Pew analyses of positive, negative, and neutral press coverage of all Republican candidates and of President Obama through this past year.

Here's the trend in coverage of Mitt Romney. The solid line means "positive" stories (in Romney's case, about his business record or primary-election successes); the dotted line means "negative" stories (for Romney, about Bain-related layoffs or campaign-trail gaffes); and "neutral" stories are left out.

RomneyPewPNG.png


Main theme: Romney endured slightly-to-somewhat more negative-than-positive coverage in much of 2011, during the intense primary debates and negative ads, but has had much more positive-than-negative coverage through this year.

Now, here is comparable coverage of President Obama:

ObamaPressPNG.png


Main point: President Obama has always had more negative-than-positive coverage through the past year.

Here is how the two charts look when combined:

RomneyObamaPewPNG.png

Main point: At no time in the past year has coverage of President Obama been as positive as that of Governor Romney. Indeed, at no time in the past year has it been on-balance positive at all.

You can argue that negative coverage of the administration is justified. You can argue that incumbents are -- and should be -- held to a tougher standard, since they have a record to defend. But you can't sanely argue that the press is in the tank for Obama, notwithstanding recent "false equivalence" attempts to do so.

One more chart from Pew:

CoverageTonePNG.png
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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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