December 16, 2011

How 2011 Presidential Campaign Coverage Stacks up with 2007

2011 2007
Jan 0.7 5.7
Feb 0.9 8.4
Mar 1.4 8.4
Apr 5 6.6
May 7.9 9.1
Jun 11.9 9.9
Jul 3.1 8.9
Aug 8.5 8.8
Sep 12.6 9.9
Oct 18.7 13.1
Nov 20 17.8
Dec 1-11 23.5 20.9

20% – Amount of Coverage of the 2012 Presidential Campaign since October 1 

Thus far in 2011, (from January 1 through December 11), the presidential campaign, defined by the Republican nomination battle, has accounted for 9% of the overall newshole. That is slightly less than the amount of coverage (10%) devoted to the presidential campaign for the same period four years earlier, when about twice as many candidates were running and the nominations in both parties were up for grabs.

But those overall numbers tell only part of the story. After a sluggish start to campaign coverage early in 2011, attention to the campaign in the past quarter has spiked dramatically and outstripped coverage of the 2008 campaign for the same period four years ago.

The past few months, starting on October 1, have seen a number of dramatic developments in the Republican race including problems for former frontrunner Rick Perry’s campaign, the stunning rise and fall of Herman Cain and the dramatic resurgence of Newt Gingrich to the top of the polls. From October 1-December, 11, the campaign accounted for 20% of the overall newshole, edging out the U.S. economy as the No. 1 story.

In that same time frame in 2007, the presidential contest filled 16% of the newshole.   

Coverage of the campaign during the middle of 2011-from April 1 through September 30-registered at 8% of the newshole, which was just slightly behind the coverage in that same period four years ago, which was 9%.

Coverage in 2011 really spiked in June of this year (12% that month) as almost all the Republican hopefuls entered the race, but then fell significantly in July (3% that month) as the media focused on the Congressional battle over the debt crisis. By August, however, attention had risen to 9% and has climbed steadily since.

The biggest difference in the amount of coverage devoted to the 2012 and 2008 campaigns occurred early in the year. In the first quarter of 2011 (January 1 through March 31), coverage of the presidential race (1% of the newshole) was far behind where it was (7%) for the corresponding period four years ago.  In early 2007, both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama entered the 2008 campaign, raising the possibility of the nation electing its first female or African-American president, which helped drive coverage. In 2011, the main contenders were slower to announce their candidacies.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ