News Interest Index: Public Says Press Should Not Declare Obama the Winner

May 14, 2008

Barack Obama may be building an insurmountable lead in the Democratic primary race, but the public is sending a strong message to journalists and pundits: It is too early to declare, as some already have, that the race is over.

Fully 72% of the public - including comparable percentages of Democrats, Republicans and independents - say that journalists should not be anointing Obama as the Democratic nominee at this stage in the race. Just 20% say that journalists should be doing this.

Opinion among Democrats about what the press should do in this regard may well reflect their view that Hillary Clinton should stay in the race. Recent surveys by Gallup and ABC News/Washington Post find that most Democrats believe that Clinton should stay in the race. In the ABC News/Washington Post survey, released May 12, 64% of Democrats, including 42% of Obama supporters, said Clinton should remain in the race.

The presidential campaign once again dominated the national news last week, with 46% of the newshole devoted to the race. According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism's Campaign Coverage Index, this represented the biggest single week of election coverage since the week of the Texas and Ohio primaries in early March.

Public interest in the campaign was up moderately: 35% followed campaign news very closely up from 27% the week before. Clinton generated her highest level of campaign coverage for the year thus far (70% of all campaign stories featured Clinton), edging out Obama (at 67%), according to PEJ. However, Obama remained the most visible candidate in the eyes of the public.

Since mid-March, the amount of news coverage devoted to Clinton compared to Obama has fluctuated in concert with events on the campaign trail. However Obama has consistently been the more visible candidate to the public. On average, more than half of the public has pointed to Obama as the candidate they have heard the most about in the news recently. About 30%, on average, have named Clinton. Consistently, fewer than 10% have named John McCain as the most visible candidate in the news during this period.

Read the full report Public Says Press Should Not Declare Obama the Winner on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.

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