PEJ News Coverage Index: September 20-26, 2010. Midterm Election Coverage Kicks Into High Gear

  • September 28, 2010

The 2010 midterms dominated the news agenda for the second week in a row and seemed poised to emerge as the major mainstream media story of the fall season.

From September 20-26, the elections accounted for 25% of the newshole, according to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That is down modestly from the previous week (30%), when Christine O'Donnell's September 14 upset win in Delaware's GOP Senate primary drove the narrative.

That was still almost twice as much coverage as the next biggest story, the economy (13%). The significant political narratives of the week included continuing coverage of the tea party's influence and the Republicans' unveiling their Pledge to America policy blueprint.

The midterm elections are unlikely to approach the kind of sustained attention paid to the last presidential race—which filled a whopping 36% of the newshole in 2008. But with their potential to switch party majorities in the House, and possibly even the Senate, they have been the top story for the last two months (edging out the economy 14% to 12%) and are likely to generate more attention in the countdown to the Nov. 2 balloting.

The subject on which the outcome of the midterms may well pivot, the troubled U.S. economy, was the No. 2 story last week. One of the significant events was the news that the recession was officially over—and had indeed ended in June 2009. But that report had to compete with a widely disseminated video of an Obama supporter who, addressing the president at an economy-oriented town hall meeting, declared, “I'm exhausted… defending you.”

Read the full report, Midterm Election Coverage Kicks Into High Gear on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.