A new study of more than 130,000 news articles on the 2012 presidential election between Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama proves without a doubt that the press strongly leans Democratic.
The study, published in the authoritative journal Big Data & Society, also tested the campaign themes the media focused on and determined that Obama succeeded in stealing the economic issue from Republican Romney.
"The 2012 elections saw an 'issue trespassing' strategy with President Obama taking the initiative on the economy," found the survey of stories produced by 719 U.S. and international outlets.
The survey used a technical language processing analysis to filter all the stories and found that Obama was portrayed as an attack dog and Romney on defense. Key was Obama's ability to "own" the economic message despite Romney's repeated assaults and the public's general view that the GOP handles the economy better.
"Overall, media reporting contained more frequently positive statements about the Democrats than the Republicans. Overall, the Republicans were more frequently the object of negative statements," the study’s authors wrote. "The Republican Party is the most divisive subject in the campaign, and is portrayed in a more negative fashion than the Democrats."
While the study’s findings are not exactly surprising, it’s important nonetheless to show that liberal media bias isn’t exactly a fictional conservative grievance. Information gatekeepers such as the news media have a great role to play when it comes to influencing the public’s opinion about candidates. What Republicans can do to level the playing field as 2016 approaches, however, remains to be seen.