Study Finds Obama Received “Unrelentingly Negative” Media Coverage

Conservative media figures have frequently argued that President Obama has received favorable coverage from a supposedly adoring media, but a new study from Pew finds that “negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-to-1.” While some observers (including Media Matters) have in the past questioned the usefulness of similar studies, conservatives have cited past Pew reports to portray the rest of the media as biased.

Pew Research Finds Obama Had Most Negative Media Coverage Of Any 2012 Presidential Candidate

Pew: Obama “Has Suffered The Most Unrelentingly Negative Treatment Of All” From The Media. From Pew's summary of its study media coverage of the first phase of the 2012 presidential race:

One man running for president has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-to-1. The assessments of the president in the media were substantially more negative than positive in every one of the 23 weeks studied. In no week during these five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the President positive in tone. [Pew, 10/17/11]

Conservatives Consistently Claim Media Favors Obama

Limbaugh: “Democrats And The Media Are Trying To Establish” That Obama Is “Unbeatable.” From On The Record:

VAN SUSTEREN: Isn't that -- I mean, didn't President Obama, though -- didn't he reach out to those moderates? And he was sort of the calm, the professorial type. Isn't that how he got that 20 percent?

LIMBAUGH: Well -- but, yes -- but that's 2008. This is a different time now. He's got a record to defend, which he can't. He's got a totally indefensible record.

I think Obama is easily beatable.

Now, what the Democrats and the media are trying to establish is that he's unbeatable. That he's so powerful. That he's so authentic. He's got such a wonderful way of communicating, that this is not the time to try to beat him. [On The Record With Greta Van Susteren, 5/26/2011 via Nexis]

O'Reilly: Obama “Has The Media Behind Him.” From The O'Reilly Factor:

BILL O'REILLY: Now, was I wrong for saying that -- that Mr. Cain and Congressman Paul have no shot at it? Was I wrong to do that?

DENNIS MILLER: Well, I don't know. Let see say this about Ron Paul and George Ringo. I'll do it if everybody else will do it. It's almost like a dare at this point.

O'REILLY: It's not going to happen, you know? I mean, people get mad at me. I know they have supporters. And I don't mind them running. And I like the spirit that they bring in some regard. But they're not going to get the nomination. And I think it's -- no spin zone. I've got to say it. And Santorum, too. Rick Santorum, he's not going to get the nomination.


MILLER: ... president.


MILLER: When you say Ron Paul doesn't have a chance, excuse me, do you see who the president is?

O'REILLY: It doesn't matter, because he has the media behind him and big, big George Soros dollars behind him. Paul doesn't have any of that.

MILLER: I'd take anybody over him tomorrow. And I think a lot of the people are getting to that point, too.

If I was the Republican candidate, I might just legally change my name to “Not Obama,” because that's the key here. Now Ron Paul George Ringo is a little isolationist for me. But I'll tell you what: he makes sense on a lot of things.

And this whole thing is can he be president? For God's sakes, look who we elected last time through.

O'REILLY: All right. Because the fact of the matter is...

MILLER: Yes, it would appear anybody could be president.

O'REILLY: ... that Rick Santorum, Ron Paul and Herman Cain are not going to get the nomination. [The O'Reilly Factor, 8/10/2011 via Nexis]

Doocy: “The Mainstream Media Has Been So Supportive Of This President.” From Fox & Friends:

STEVE DOOCY: Wouldn't you agree that the mainstream media has been so supportive of this president; they might be relecutant perhaps to report on a scandal? [Fox & Friends, 5/31/2011]

Coulter: Obama “Will Have The Entire Mainstream Media Bucking For Him.”From Hannity:

SEAN HANNITY: As bad as Obama's numbers are, can he make a comeback? Could republicans get overconfident and say unemployment is 9%, he's in the 30s In terms of his popularity, 50 million Americans in poverty.

ANN COULTER: To some extent. You have to remember he will have the entire mainstream media bucking for him and they will lie about the economy. “Oh, It's a turnaround, don't stop him now.” But he doesn't understand the economy. [Hannity, 10/14/2011]

Conservative Media Touted Previous Pew Findings

Baier: “Pew Research Center Found Obama's Coverage To Be More Positive Than Negative.” From Special Report:

BRET BAIER: And now the most captivating two minutes in television, some fresh pickings from the “Political Grapevine.”

Barack Obama has mentioned FOX News numerous times on the stump, at one point telling a reporter if it were not for FOX News he would be two or three points higher in the polls.

But that's not backed newspaper a new study. The independent Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism looked at coverage in the six weeks following the conventions through the final debate and found that on FOX 40 percent of stories on John McCain were negative while 40 percent of stories on Obama were also negative.

In contrast, on MSNBC, the study found that 73 percent of stories on McCain were negative, while Obama received just 14 percent negative coverage on that channel.

On all networks and other media outlets, the Pew Research Center found Obama's coverage to be more positive than negative, while McCain's coverage was 57 percent negative to 14 percent positive. [Special Report, 10/31/2008 via Nexis]

O'Reilly: “It's Now Certain That The American Media Has Given Barack Obama An Enormous Advantage.” From The O'Reilly Factor:

BILL O'REILLY: In addition to the money, it`s now certain that the American media has given Barack Obama an enormous advantage. According to a study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism, John McCain`s getting hosed big time. In all of the media studied, 57 percent of the stories on McCain were negative. 29 percent negative for Obama. Newspapers are very unfair. 69 percent of the reporting on McCain negative, as opposed to 28 percent negative for Obama.

NBC News is the most biased news agency by far. I don`t think anybody`s surprised by that. On the broadcast side, that`s primarily Brian Williams and “The Today Show,” 54 percent of the stories about McCain were negative. 21 percent of Obama stories were negative.

On MSNBC, it`s an absolute scandal. 73 percent of the stories on McCain negative. 14 percent negative toward Obama. MSNBC, the Obama network. That`s a huge American corporation, General Electric, which owns NBC, is using its money and power to benefit a presidential candidate. That is a gross violation of the spirit of the constitutional powers given to a free press.

The three men behind this corruption are CEO - GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, NBC News boss Jeff Zucker, and NBC News chief Steve Capus. These three calculated that by openly supporting Obama, turning a network into his campaign headquarters, they could lure millions of Obama supporters and make money.

Now, much of the other media covers for NBC, unfortunately. The Associated Press article today about the press study had this headline. “NBC News doesn`t follow MSNBC`s left drift.” But that`s a bit misleading. The article written by committed leftists David Bauder says that the study found no hint that NBC`s coverage was worse than the mediaas a whole. But as we mentioned, the media as a whole is far more negative toward McCain than Obama. A nice slight of hand for the dishonest Bauder, who has written 52 negative stories about the FOX News Channel. I feel like John McCain.

As for FNC, the study found that 40 percent of our reporting was negative to McCain and 40 percent was negative about Obama. Whoa, sounds fair and balanced to me. Summing up with a two to one advantage in money and the American press openly favoring him, Barack Obama is certainly looking forward to election day. And that`s the Memo. [The O'Reilly Factor, 10/30/2008 via Nexis]

Wallace: “Media Coverage Of Obama Was Slightly Positive While Coverage Of McCain Was Overwhelmingly Negative.” From Fox News Sunday:

CHRIS WALLACE: Meanwhile, the Project for Excellence in Journalism think tank has analyzed all the print and broadcast coverage not of the vice presidential candidates but of the -- of the presidential nominees and came up with the following results.

Media coverage of Obama was slightly positive while coverage of McCain was overwhelmingly negative.

Now, Mara, part of this may just be the horse race that we like to cover, you know, and the fact is when somebody's winning, coverage tends to be more positive, when somebody's losing, it tends to be more negative.

Do you think it's just that, or do you think, in fact, that they -- they have been treated differently in terms of the substance of their arguments and their campaigns? [Fox News Sunday, 10/26/2008 via Nexis]

Pinkerton: “The Project For Excellence In Journalism Shows That The Negative Coverage On McCain Is Four Times The Positive Coverage.” From Fox News Watch:


SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mark my words, it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We are about to elect a brilliant 47-year old president of the United States of American. Remember, I said it standing here, if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."


SCOTT: That's vice presidential candidate Joe Biden speaking Sunday at a Democratic fund-raiser.

All right. You wrote a column about this, Kirsten. You were pretty tough on your fellow Democrat. Did they give him a pass on those remarks?

KIRSTEN POWERS, “NEW YORK POST” COLUMNIST & FOX NEWS ANALYST: Yes, I think they did. I think I was tougher on the media than Biden because we don't really know -- Biden hasn't actually given us any explanation of this. The media, if there's any doubt there was a double standard in this race, it is completely laid to rest by this because there is no way that this can be ignored. What he said, he goes into such detail, if you listen to the whole thing, read the entire transcript. It's not he's talking about John McCain or barrack Obama will be tested. He's talking specifically barrack Obama will be tested.

SCOTT: That seemed to be the Democratic Party spin after the remarks generated some attention. He was talking theoretically about whoever gets elected.

KIRSTEN: He did say barrack Obama has a steel spine and people will realize he can handle it. But that was after this lengthy exposition on how we're going to have some international incident.

CAL THOMAS, SYDICATED COLUMNIST: He went further. He tried to inoculate Obama and himself because he said, in the next sound bite, which was also ignored by the mainstream media, look, he's going to make decisions when we are threatened, and some of you will think they're wrong, but they're not wrong. Trust us anyway.

This is messy and a cult-like devotion and it's meant to insulate himself from any criticism of the media should he make wrong decisions.

SCOTT: I guess the scary part about it is that Biden does have access, as you pointed out in your column, to the same intelligence that George W. Bush does.

THOMAS: Yes. He probably came right out of a briefing. Of course, Biden can't hold anything in. The minute he knows something, it goes to the mouth and out to everybody.

SCOTT: Why didn't it get more coverage? Why didn't it get more coverage?

JANE HALL, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: I think it really gets to the fact that people, as she said in her column, people have an opinion about Sarah Palin as they had an opinion about Dan Quayle. They think Biden -- they know Biden. He's been around. And it was shocking. And he also said you're not going to like the economy in a year. The guy -- it is -- you could psycho analyze it. You could say it was refreshing candor or you could say, my God, what does he believe about the man he's running with. Maybe there's some envy there. You can psycho analyze this.

Very little coverage of it. I think it does demonstrates not that they're in the tank for Obama, but that they think they know Biden and they've already forgiven him. so he will never get caught on this.

JIM PINKERTON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR & COLUMNIST, “AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE”: Let me get Jane's argument straight. People out there...

HALL: People, the media. Our media! Mea Culpa.

PINKERTON: Oh, let me clarify that. It's not there's a double standard. It's they like Biden and don't like Palin. I see.

HALL: I agree!


HALL: I'm agreeing with you!

PINKERTON: This might explain why it is that according to the Pew Center, the public, by a 70-9 ratio, think the press wants Obama to win. Why the Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that the negative coverage on McCain is four times the positive coverage. I think the pattern is emerging here.

SCOTT: Kirsten, what would have been the coverage if Palin had made those remarks?

POWERS: I can't even imagine. I really can't even imagine. I think it would be front page news.

THOMAS: No, they're focusing on her clothes.

POWERS: I think we would have heard the entire clip over and over again. The economy part isn't even being discussed. The whole thing was sort of jarring if you read it thinking I'm a Democrat, I'm voting to barrack Obama. I'm thinking what is he talking about and does he have information we don't know about.

SCOTT: Why is it the Democrats only tell the truth in fund-raisers when they think nobody's listening.

THOMAS: Let me pick up on Jim's point though because it's a very good one. The Pew Center report that showed huge numbers of the American people don't believe what they're getting from the media. Now, in any other industry, could you afford to disrespect your consumers whether you're selling hamburgers or gasoline or clothes? This is amazing and we see the numbers continue to decline, particularly at the broadcast networks and newspapers. And yet they continue to spill out this dribble even though the customers aren't buying it.

SCOTT: And wonder why subscriptions are dropping.

THOMAS: Exactly. [Fox News Watch, 10/25/2008 via Nexis]

Media Matters intern Sean Dolan contributed to this item.