The portrayal in the news media of the character and records of the two presidential contenders has been as negative as any campaign in recent times, and neither has enjoyed any advantage over the other. More of what the public hears about candidates also now comes from the campaigns themselves and less from journalists acting as independent reporters or interpreters of who the candidates are.
The public continued to track news about the economy and the presidential election, while paying less attention to another important political story – Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in a hard-fought recall election.
Americans continued to follow news about the presidential campaign more closely than any other news last week, though they also closely followed news about the price of gasoline.
Americans focused most closely last week on news about the presidential election, as the race increasingly shifted from the Republican primary contest to the head-to-head fight between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Mitt Romney needed 15 weeks once the primary contests began to gain a secure hold over his party’s nomination for president. But he emerged as the conclusive winner in the media narrative about the race six weeks earlier following a narrow win in his native state, Michigan.
The frontrunners’ fortunes in the media changed significantly last week as Mitt Romney rebounded from very negative coverage the previous week and Rick Santorum saw his narrative turn decidedly less positive. Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich continues to suffer from both unflattering coverage and little of it.
Cable news is now the top regular source for campaign news. The long-term decline in the number of Americans getting campaign news from local and network TV news, and local newspapers, steepened this year. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter are used for campaign news by a relatively limited audience.
As Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney took their battle for the Republican presidential nomination to Florida for its Jan. 31 primary, both of them arrive in the state with portrayals in the news media that are almost equally mixed
The weakening economy was the most-covered news story in 2011, but it has now been overtaken by coverage of the presidential campaign.
After winning the first two nominating contests, Mitt Romney is getting more negative news coverage heading into Saturday's South Carolina primary than he has at any time so far in the GOP race, according to the first edition of an ongoing analysis of election news by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.