News Interest Index: Greater Coverage of McCain, But Public Still Focused on Obama

  • May 28, 2008

Despite a significant increase in news coverage of John McCain last week, Barack Obama remained by far the most visible candidate in the eyes of the public. Fully half of the public said Obama was the candidate they had heard the most about in the news recently, while only 8% said they had heard the most about the presumptive GOP nominee.

McCain was featured prominently in 41% of all campaign news last week, according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism's Campaign Coverage Index. That is still significantly less than the amount of coverage devoted to Obama - 62% of the campaign newshole - but is more coverage than McCain has received in any week since February's Super Tuesday primaries.

Much of the week's coverage of McCain dealt with two specific events: the release of the senator's medical records and the controversy surrounding two ministers who had endorsed him.

Neither of these events registered widely with the public. Just 18% heard a lot about McCain releasing his medical records; roughly the same proportion (22%) heard a lot about the controversial comments made by two prominent evangelical pastors who supported McCain, and McCain's subsequent disavowal of that support. By contrast, fully 55% heard a lot about Barack Obama gaining a majority of the pledged delegates from the Democratic presidential primaries.

Overall, the national news media devoted 37% of its coverage to the presidential campaign, making it by far the most heavily covered news story of the week. News that U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor also drew considerable coverage (8% of all news coverage).

Read the full report Greater Coverage of McCain, But Public Still Focused on Obama on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.