June 17, 2013

News Coverage Conveys Strong Momentum for Same-Sex Marriage

Differences by Media

Across almost all the news sectors examined, stories supportive of same-sex marriage outnumbered those in opposition.[1]  

 

The only exception was on the two conservative talk radio programs studied: Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh. In the sample studied (the first hour of every second day), Limbaugh aired nine segments on the subject. None were in support, 33% were in opposition and 67% were neutral. Hannity did not address the subject in the sample studied.

While other sectors of the media offered more coverage dominated by statements of support, the level of neutral coverage and degree of supportive coverage varied among individual outlets.

For the 11 newspapers in the sample, researchers used LexisNeixs searches to identify the stories focused on same-sex marriage anywhere in the paper (wire stories and syndicated columns are not included in LexisNexis).[1] In all, 43% of the stories carried twice the supportive statements than opposing ones compared with 8% that were the reverse. The highest percent, though, 48%, offered a roughly even mix of views or neutral coverage. Two papers, in particular, offered higher degrees of mixed or neutral coverage. In The Wall Street Journal, fully 70% of the stories studied were mixed or neutral as were 67% of the stories published by USA Today (though USA Today produced fewer stories overall).  

In cable news, where the rotating sample included an hour of daytime programming and four of each channel’s primetime news programs, all three channels had more supportive coverage than opposing. The prominence of supportive stories varied, however. MSNBC, with its liberal prime-time hosts, had by far the highest percentage of support (64%) and the fewest neutral stories (30%). Fox News, on the other hand, had the lowest percentage of supportive stories (29%) and the highest level of neutral (63%). The CNN’s mix was closer to Fox than MSNBC, with 39% largely voicing support and 57% neutral or mixed. 

For the three major commercial networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) as well as PBS, the sampling of morning and evening news shows (which included the first hour of morning news and full 30 minutes of evening every other day) did not include a single story that had significantly more statements in opposition than in support. Of the 27 stories included from those channels combined, 12 were in support while 15 were neutral.

On radio news programs, which included stories on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered or Morning Edition and the ABC or CBS News radio headlines, there were 21 total stories. Of those, 29% were supportive, while 14% were opposed. But by far the highest percentage, 57%, were neutral or mixed.  


Footnotes:

[1] For newspapers, websites, evening network television programs, cable news programs and radio news, all stories about same-sex marriage were included on the days captured. For morning network news programs and talk radio shows, stories appearing in the first hour were included on the days captured. For LGBT outlets, all publications were included.

[1] The LexisNexis database does not include wire and syndicated articles from other sources that appear in print editions of newspapers. Pew Research conducted a test of 22 randomly selected wire stories or syndicated columns on the subject that ran in one of the newspapers studied during this time period. The findings closely matched that of newspapers and the news media overall and suggest that had wire and syndicated stories been included, the percentages would not have shifted significantly.