The center surveyed stories in 1,500 news outlets and found that stories in them about President Obama were consistently negative, by a four-to-one margin. Only nine percent of the news coverage in those outlets over the last five months was positive; 34 percent was negative.
The tone of Obama’s coverage on blogs, while still overwhelmingly negative, was slightly better for the president, with 14 percent rated as positive and 36 percent rated negative.
That’s not to say that there was never evidence of a pro-Obama bias in the press.
In October of 2007, then-Sen. Barack Obama got the most positive treatment in the news outlets surveyed, while coverage of then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) was more negative than positive. By May of 2008, coverage of Clinton and Obama had evened out, while coverage of McCain remained more unfavorable than favorable.
However, since shortly after President Obama took office, coverage of the president has largely focused on the economic crisis. While the president has been able to affect the amount of coverage he gets by scheduling speeches and events, the survey revealed that he has not been able to shift the tone of that coverage.
According to the survey, Republican presidential contenders have found a more mixed media reception.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry takes the prize for most positive coverage (although he has been in the race for the shortest period of time), with good reports outweighing negative ones 32 to 20 percent. However, in recent months, coverage has focused on Perry’s stumbles and he has been eclipsed in positive coverage (and polls) by former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain.
Coverage of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has been evenly divided with 26 percent of it positive and 27 percent of it negative.
The 2012 Republican candidate with the most negative coverage was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose coverage was 35 percent negative and 15 percent positive.
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the figure most likely to complain about the press, actually got fairly good coverage throughout her flirtation with a 2012 presidential bid — 32 percent positive to 20 percent negative. Coverage of Palin on blogs, however, was far more negative.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul got the least coverage in the mainstream press and the most coverage on blogs.
A couple more interesting tidbits: Debates shift narratives about candidates more than poll numbers, and the tone of each candidate’s coverage in “the blogosphere” has not changed over time regardless of news events or press.