PEJ News Coverage Index: March 19-25. Two Primaries and a Gaffe Shape Campaign Coverage

Mar 26, 2012

Another Southern primary win helped lift Rick Santorum to his best week of coverage since mid-February while a high-profile gaffe had an impact on Mitt Romney's narrative.

In a week when Santorum and Mitt Romney shared wins -Romney in Illinois, Santorum in Louisiana-the tone of the media narrative for each was similar and more positive than negative.  But the similarity masked a sharp improvement in Santorum's coverage and a significant worsening for Romney, according to the Campaign 2102 in the Media, a weekly tracking of the tone and volume of coverage of the candidates by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

From March 19-25 Romney outdistanced his rivals in the amount of coverage received, due in part to a widely criticized-and even mocked-remark by a top aide comparing Romney's fall strategy to shaking the slate clean in an Etch A Sketch toy.  (It also sparked a boom in Etch A Sketch sales.) But the controversy also affected the tone of his coverage. For the week, 41% of Romney's coverage was positive compared with 29% negative and 30% neutral. That comes on the heels of two weeks when Romney saw his positive coverage outstrip his negative by more than 40 percentage points.

Read the full PEJ Election Report on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism website.

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