The media hates Obama?

A new survey says Obama’s been getting a rough ride in the press


The Pew Research Center released a survey of which U.S. candidates have received the most positive and negative coverage during the primary season so far, with Rick Perry and now Herman Cain getting particularly positive coverage and Newt Gingrich getting a particularly tough time. But the big news from the survey is this bit of information, which has people arguing over what exactly “positive” and “negative” means in this context:

One man running for president has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-to-1. The assessments of the president in the media were substantially more negative than positive in every one of the 23 weeks studied. In no week during these five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the President positive in tone.

Now, apart from questions about the methodology, which is necessarily subjective (since it judges “the level and tone” of coverage, and since “neutral” coverage, the biggest category, is difficult to define), the probable reason for the finding is that Obama is the president during a time of mostly bad economic news, so there are more negative things to say. Most of the GOP candidates are not truly national figures yet, and some of them don’t even hold office at the moment, so the negative coverage mostly comes when they say something embarrassing. This may be one reason why Sarah Palin registers as having some of the most positive coverage: she just hasn’t been doing all that much in the last few months, and it turns out she wasn’t even a candidate, so what was there to say?

Still, the survey doesn’t seem completely at odds with the reality of the situation, and not just because there are non-partisan reasons for negative coverage of Obama. Obama and his administration have displayed a rather prickly relationship with the press, sometimes verging on open contempt. That frosty attitude to the media might translate into an in-kind response. Also, there’s the usual imbalance: conservative outlets give him mostly negative coverage, whereas liberal outlets are also frequently negative. (Which may simply mean that everyone has good reason to be negative, of course.) Rick Perry and Sarah Palin’s averages are driven up by Fox and other outlets; Republicans who are not Fox favourites, like Ron Paul and Tim Pawlenty, tend to be further down on that list.

The results will likely change some once Obama has an actual opponent onto whom all the coverage of the GOP, positive and negative, can be focused. Also, whether or not the Obama administration is viewed favourably by the U.S. press, they really can’t do much about it: running against the press is a strategy that worked for Nixon/Agnew, but simply doesn’t work for Democrats. Clinton had reason, probably better reason than Obama, to be angry about the way he was covered in the press, yet he didn’t make that a part of his strategy; he couldn’t. There simply aren’t enough Democratic voters who accept accusations of media bias, whereas Republican base voters believe very strongly in liberal media bias. So the Republican can talk about the “lamestream media,” but if the Democrat tries it, it won’t work; he’ll be portrayed as a whiner.


The media hates Obama?

  1. Oh I think we’re all aware of why the media hates Obama. But for all that the Repubs haven’t managed to come up with any opposing candidate that isn’t a punch line.

  2. Clearly this is an article to try to elicit sympathy for Obama. You can’t be serious. Listen to the news and TV talk shows from here in the US. ABC CBS NBC MSNBC etc. are completely FAWNING over this man (reminds me of the CBC). Their on air hosts grovel at the foot of Obama. FOX is the only network that leans to the right and guess what? It’s ratings are among the highest in the industry. Bill O’Rielly might be the most fair on air personality in the nation.

    • you be the only one caring about the truth.

      • yarrr mateee

  3. I have always wondered if Obama is getting more negative coverage than Bush and if part of the reason for this was that the press were afraid of Cheney and Rove and their dirty tricks. Bush deserved more negative coverage but I dont think he got as much as Obama who inherited the negative situation from him.

    • “Bush deserved more negative coverage but I dont think he got as much as Obama”
      I will give you the benefit of the doubt and put this line up to delusion.

  4. Obama is getting bad coverage because he didn’t deliver on either hope or change.  In his first two years, he should have used his majority situation to drive his supposed agenda through the legislature.  Instead, he chose to try to compromise with Republicans, who didn’t even have the power to stop him, and weren’t interested in moving from their positions anyway.  Tom Tomorrow’s depiction of him as MiddleMan is a perfect description of why he lost popularity, and why much of the coverage of his presidency has been negative.

    There obviously is a Fox factor as well, but most of the sane networks are simply covering the negativity that comes with the fact that Obama has not delivered on his promises for hope and change.  Because of Obama’s weakness, we’re probably going to have to suffer through four more years of complete Republican insanity (if Perry wins) or increased corporate sleaze (if Romney wins).

    • you must be a recent grad.

      • Ya people with degrees are idiots! Down with education! Up with blind adherence to my parents’ ideology!

        Recent grad or not. it sounds like he’s paying attention at least…

    • The “Obama didn’t deliver” story is way off. If you look at who has lost faith in Obama, the answer is very clear:
      ( approval by party ID 2009Dems: 88%Indys: 62%GOP: 41%Obama approval by party ID 2011Dems: 78% (-10%)
      Indys: 35% (-27%)
      GOP: 8% (-33%)

      Obama misinterpreted his victory in 2008, as an endorsement of his policies, as opposed to a response to the mortgage meltdown. Obama probably would have won anyway, but by a narrow margin, and certainly not with a super-majority. He wasted his political capital on a fight for healthcare reform, instead of focusing on economic issues. He used the stimulus to fund ideological and political objectives instead of focusing on things with a high multiplier effect (here is the CBO analysis:, while also overselling it (by his estimates unemployment should be 6.6% by now: 

      As a result, he has lost support among Republicans (admittedly, a lot of that was probably the honeymoon effect), and independents. Liberals – who are the most likely to care about Obama “not following through on his promises” have been far less likely to stray from the flock. 

      • He used the stimulus to fund those who created the crash in the first place, full stop.  Health care reform was separate.  He didn’t even consider investigating the ratings agencies that rated toxic CDS’s as AAA.  He rewarded the Wall Street bubble enablers, and left the rest of society high and dry.  Now with the jobs bill, people are doubtful that he’s actually going to deliver help where it’s actually needed.

        What’s the date of that Gallup poll?  I get a page not found error when I click on it.

  5. Obama is getting bad coverage because the Lame Stream Media didn’t do their homework during the last presidential nomination period.  They gave him glowing reports for no apparent reason and he became the Democratic nominee instead of madam Clinton.  He is as at least as bad a president as Carter and deserves the same fate.

    The U.S. nomination system generally results in a genuinely tested candidate it didn’t with Obama.

  6. The media has a bias. They are biased in favour of interesting stories. The subjects of those stories can trade access for fawning coverage. In 2008 Obama was the big story, and got positive press out of it (see, for instance: 

    Now Obama is yesterday’s news, and has a lousy record to boot (“things might have been worse without me”, even if it is accurate, is a pretty tough line to defend). Of course he isn’t going to like the media. 

  7. My theory about our commercial media in the U.S. is that it’s aching for a contest. Its denizens just love covering the horse race–and it needs to be close or perceived as close to get those eyeballs.  Covering the intricacies and complexities of policies, intelligently and impartially (notice I didnt’ say “balance”) evaluating?  Not so much.  Too much work and you don’t get to bat those baby blues at the audience and salve your own ego by giving your own (warped) take on things night after night.  Nothing personal, Barack; but you were last year’s news the minute you won.