The Charts That Should Accompany All Discussions of Media Bias

By James Fallows

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

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2012/05/the-charts-that-should-accompany-all-discussions-of-media-bias/257961/