July 27, 2011

The Debt Debate, the Media, and Political Risk

Barack Obama Other Dems All GOP
Democrats 59.3 15.4
GOP 33

2x – Twice as many debt ceiling stories focus on Obama as on all GOP officials combined

With an August 2 deadline to raise the debt ceiling looming, the showdown in Washington is leading the news. Last week, July 18-24, attention to the issue accounted for a full 29% of the newshole making it by far the largest component of overall coverage of the economy (which has filled 35% of the newshole).

As Democrats and Republicans have debated the issue, which party and what figures have been viewed as the key players by the media.

An analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism finds President Barack Obama is getting by far the most attention.

Of the debt ceiling stories from July 1-24 in which someone has prominently figured (featured in at least 50% of the story), Obama has been a major presence in 59% of the stories. All other Democrats made up another 15%, meaning the party is a major focus in fully 75% of the debt ceiling stories.

By contrast, Republicans have been a primary focus in 33% of the stories—less than half as many as Democrats.  (A story can prominently feature more than one figure). And unlike Obama, who has been by far the dominant democratic figure, several prominent Republicans have shared the attention.

For instance, Speaker of the House John Boehner, who is leading GOP side in the negotiations, was prominently featured in 11% of the debt stories. Next is Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell at 6% and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor at 3%.

McConnell’s counterpart, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is a prominent figure in just 2% of the stories, and he is also the second most news-making Democrat.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ