Texas Gov. Rick Perry has received the most coverage and most flattering coverage of any candidate in the 2012 presidential race to date, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.
But the study--which uses a combination of traditional research methods with computer algorithms to track the level and tone of coverage of the candidates across thousands of news outlets--shows Herman Cain has surged of late, overtaking Perry for the most positive coverage since early October.
Meanwhile, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney "remains the one constant—portrayed as the ever-present if not passionately embraced alternative in the GOP field." Romney is now second, behind Cain, in terms of positive media coverage.
One man running for president has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all, the study found: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-1. Those assessments of the president have also been substantially more negative than positive every one of the 23 weeks studied. And in no week during these five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the president positive in tone.
Some other highlights from the study:
• Perry has enjoyed the most positive media coverage of any candidate to date, as well as the best ratio of positive to negative coverage (32 percent to 20 percent). Between Oct. 3 and Oct. 9, however, negative coverage of Perry outweighed the positive--a result of his stumbling debate performance in Florida.
• The tone of media coverage for Romney is split (26 percent positive and 27 percent), "numbers that are less positive than those for Perry, Cain, Michele Bachmann or non-candidate Sarah Palin."
• Speaking of Palin, the former Alaskan governor's flirtation with a 2012 bid--real or contrived--made her the fourth-most-covered Republican figure in news coverage, and the most widely discussed candidate on blogs. The ratio of positive to negative coverage of Palin was nearly 3 to 2.
• Bachmann has had "the wildest ride of any candidate in the race," the study concludes. "In five months, she moved in the media narrative from a long shot to a surprise contender, to an object of scrutiny about her health and husband. She re-emerged as the Iowa straw poll winner, and now she is back where she started, an unlikely contender discounted in the narrative." But Bachmann has been "largely pummeled" in the blogs.
• Ron Paul, whose campaign has complained that the media has largely ignored his candidacy, ranked last among the Republicans examined by Pew--appearing as a "primary newsmaker" in just 2 percent of all election stories. But Paul "has demonstrated a core of support in that media space that no other candidate can touch."
You can check out the full "Media Primary" report here.
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