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Study Says Press Coverage of Obama is Positive So Far

Early On, More Positive Coverage Than Clinton or Bush

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Study Says Press Coverage of Obama is Positive So Far
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Barack Obama received mostly positive press coverage in his first two months in office, a new study finds.

In fact, Obama received more positive coverage than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush during their first 60 days in the White House, according to the study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Positive stories about Obama outweighed negative ones by two-to-one, or 42 percent vs. 20 percent, while 38 percent of stories have been neutral or mixed, the study found.

The study surveyed coverage in seven national media outlets:

  • The New York Times
  • The Washington Post
  • Newsweek
  • ABC World News
  • CBS Evening News
  • NBC Nightly News
  • PBS Newshour

About four out of 10 stories, editorials and op-ed columns about Obama were "clearly positive in tone," the study said, compared with 22 percent for Bush and 27 percent for Clinton in the same mix of media outlets during the same first two months in office.

But when a broader cross-section of 49 media outlets were examined - including news websites, regional and local newspapers, cable news, network morning news, and National Public Radio - Obama's numbers were a bit more negative. In that survey, 37 percent of coverage was positive, 23 percent was negative and 40 percent was neutral.

The study's authors theorized that several factors were responsible for Obama's positive coverage, including the "pace and sweep" of his proposals and activities and his overall popularity with the public.

The researchers wrote that Obama had "managed the media narrative" by responding to the economic crisis "with so many new proposals and doing so many events that it has been hard for both his critics and the media to keep up."

They added, "those who see the press as ideologically motivated toward liberals will likely see that phenomenon as a factor here as well."

The study found that newspapers and evening network TV shows were most positive about Obama while news websites were more neutral. Not surprisingly, MSNBC and Fox News "offered strikingly different portrayals of the young presidency," the researchers wrote. CNN, meanwhile, more closely reflected the tone of the media overall. NPR and PBS offered the highest percentage of neutral stories.

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