Study: Fox News, MSNBC more 'extreme' in final week of campaign
November 20th, 2012
02:17 PM ET
6 years ago

Study: Fox News, MSNBC more 'extreme' in final week of campaign

(CNN) – A new study finds the discrepancy between Fox News and MSNBC's coverage of the two presidential candidates differed most substantially during the final week of the campaign compared to the rest of the press' coverage of the election.

While the study, conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, shows two cable news channels differed from the rest of the media's coverage about the candidates throughout the election, the difference was more pronounced from October 29 through November 5, the final week of the campaign.

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"In the final week of the campaign, both Fox News and MSNBC became even more extreme in how they differed from the rest of the press in coverage of the two candidates," said the Pew Research Center about this portion of the study's findings.

"Fox News was much more positive about (Mitt) Romney than the press as a whole and substantially more negative about (President Barack) Obama. MSNBC was even more overwhelmingly negative about Romney and offered mostly positive coverage about Obama."

The study indicates Fox News' negative coverage of Obama grew from 47% in the first four weeks of October to 56% in the final week, while positive coverage of Romney grew eight points, from 34% to 42%, in the final week.

Meanwhile on MSNBC, positive coverage of Obama grew from 33% during the first four weeks of October to 51% in the last week. MSNBC's negative coverage of Romney increased 11 points in the last week, from 57% to 68%.

In the final week of the campaign, news focused around Superstorm Sandy, its devastating effect on the East Coast and emergency response on both the federal and local level. Overall, the president received more positive coverage during the final week while the tone of Romney's coverage remained similar to previous weeks. The study stated the storm appeared to reduce the amount of coverage Romney received leading up to the election and may have influenced attitudes about Obama.

The study was conducted from October 22 through November 5, the last 15 days of the campaign, among 660 stories from 49 mainstream outlets.

Filed under: 2012
soundoff (76 Responses)

    CNN is trying to move back into the middle. They were trying to compete with FOX. When they finally realized that Fox wasn't an actual news network they stopped and now they are trying to get back to basic journalism (I don't know why this is taking so long)
    MSNBC is liberal, but liberals by nature are passive and not that aggressive so they don't have the same bite as FOX and CBS NBC ABC NPR/PBS all seem liberal to conservatives because facts have a naturally liberal bias. As a result, the more facts they report the more liberal they seem to right wingnuts

    November 20, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. Jermaine

    Great story....We kind of already knew this but it's good to see the numbers.....Even the foxnews affiliates like "" increased their negative headlines about the President. It actually became a fun game to go to Foxnews and count the number of negative headlines that were dedicated to the president and the number of postiive headlines for the Romney campaign. I think the day before the election there were 17 negative headlines on the Foxnews website about the president and 11 positive headlines about Romney. There were zero positive headlines for the president and zero negative headlines about Romeny. It was so obvious that it was humorous.

    November 20, 2012 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  3. The Real Tom Paine


    Why is this news? Fox exposes the lies of the administration and the MSM's covering up of same!
    Right. Remember the brilliant job they did on election night? FOX listeners need to learn 2 words: Millie Dowler. Yesterday, 4 of Murdoch's stooges were indicted in Britain. The people that hack into a missing child's voicemail are the
    ones you think are good journalists? Please.

    November 20, 2012 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. maf

    @ Elsie – SERIOUSLY?? Nice name calling . . . this adds to the discussion how??
    Get over yourself, PRESIDENT Obama has another four years to continue to turn this economy around.
    Watch whatever you want to watch, your opinion is not going to change almost 63,000,000 who disagree with you!!

    November 20, 2012 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  5. Blah

    This coming from CNN who accepts money from the government and other organizations to NOT cover certain news stories. MSNBC, FOX, and CNN are all broken and do not serve a role as journalists. They only serve their shareholders.

    November 20, 2012 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  6. Obama the theif

    Did CNN think we forgot who Candy Crowly works for and how she helped Obama in the debate?

    November 20, 2012 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  7. Honestly?

    CNN, thanks for the stellar reporting. I don't think we could have come to this conclusion on our own. We needed a PPP pole and article. Fox News (Fair and Balanced) MSNBC (has never ever claimed such BS). Now that I know who's in the bag for each candidate/party I can rest easier.

    November 20, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  8. NameNC_Right

    All cable news organizations are hacks....period

    November 20, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  9. Larry L

    Fact checkers show MSNBC to lie far less often than Fox News – but both are designed to offer mostly spin rather than objective reporting. Fox News most closely resembles Pravda – where truth an objectivity are not even a consideration. Fox give right-wingers "affirmation" rather than "information". Studies show those on the right more likely to reject facts if they conflict with beliefs.

    In spite of the sour grapes I read in these comments CNN and NPR do very well in that category. If a person got all of their news from either MSNBC or Fox News they would have a difficult time forming an opinion free from bias. Listening to too much Fox News could make you downright hateful.

    November 20, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  10. PaulCat

    ........and how many times has Romney gone on Fox and how many times has Obama gone on MSNBC? One channel tells lies and the other tell us the truth about their lies. No thanks to CNN.

    November 20, 2012 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  11. End the two parties

    News is no longer about reporting facts. It is all about selling the news for ratings and advertising.

    November 20, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  12. Empshel

    This required a study? Really?

    November 20, 2012 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  13. Sean

    Even Mitt knew he couldn't get an accurate portrayal by watching fox news. He tuned into CNN on election night to see what was going on.

    November 20, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  14. Mark S.

    Why don't you press people do your actual job – again – and report which network tells the truth. That is your actual job as news organizations, right? Maybe try it some time. Hmmm.

    November 20, 2012 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  15. Ed

    MSNBC is left leaning, FOX is right leaning, and CNN is too busy showing what that blowhard troll woman Nancy Grace thinks of the Octomom to cover real stories. CNN has turned into a celebrity gossip tabloid entertainment channel. Sad but true.

    November 20, 2012 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  16. bill.x

    I watched both these networks at different times during the whole election cycle and know there is a great difference between them. The FOX team just blurts out data – you can't even call it information because they are repeating talking points by the likes of Karl Rove, then speculate about what it could mean. They say it, scream it then say it again. They offer not facts nor bring in professionals who are involved in a story to hear what s being said and give them the opportunity to correct it, like the MSNBC team does. It would give me the greatest pleasure to have anyone from FOX go on the Maddow Show and discuss or debate any topic that was critical to the election or the candidate's character. I may also add that, unfortunately, CNN chose to be an information's transaction processor, rather than to provide report and analysis. One wonders if this piece is their way of trying to justify their irrelevance in this 2012 important cycle.

    November 20, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  17. Wake up People!

    Are they saying Fox only ran negative stories about President Obama 47% of the time?? Everytime I turned Fox on, they were negative about him. As for MSNBC becoming more negative about Willard...maybe they were justified, considering he just told a huge whopper of a lie about Jeep. Did you expect them to just pretend he didn't???

    Don't leave yourself out CNN. You definitely showed your GOP colors almost the entire last 6 months. After that first debate with Willard lying like a rug, you were Romney this, Romney that. But you didn't do the same for President Obama when he won the last two.

    Speaking of Fox, Willard should really be mad at them. They had him thinking he had the election in the bag.

    November 20, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  18. Jersey Girl

    I didn't find CNN to be entirely neutral; depending on the journalist talking, one would be either pro-Romney or pro-Obama. But for the most part, you could count on CNN itself being neutral. Hubby and me primarily watch MSNBC just about every evening, but although they are primarily pro-Obama, we agree with alot of their opinions as we are for the president too, and so that channel really speaks to us. Every so often I would switch to Fox Channel for a minute, but not for very long, because we find their opinions so crazy, and always negative to the president. Of course during the elections itself, we didn't have power as we are in NJ, (for 11 days!), and I was desperate for election status, and there I was in bed listening to 1010 AM radio on a little radio, taking notes! It was not fun with a flashlight and fake candles....

    November 20, 2012 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  19. Eric

    Water is wet. Imagine that.

    November 20, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  20. bob saget

    this is one of those instances where MSNBC should say to fox "the tea pot is calling the kettle black"

    November 20, 2012 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  21. Larry in Houston

    Hate to be a bearer of bad tidings – after reading these comments, and Have Watched the Other News Channels – CNN is THE MOST non – biased / not to mention the Most Fair & Balanced News Channel. A/C 360 show is the most trusted, and shows what's going on, whether it's politics, or anything else he reports on.

    November 20, 2012 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  22. Mario

    Fox News lies about everything and they look like idiots, MSNBC simply tells the truth and people call them "extreme". What a joke, other so called news sources are bland and terrified to tell the truth because they might offend someone wealthy or a corporation, MSNBC tells it like it is and that's why I respect them. Rachel Maddow is probably the best news journalist working today.

    November 20, 2012 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  23. just sayin

    msnbc isn't a news organization anymore than pravda was a news organization. it is a joke with joke people on shows. you can count the number of viewers on one hand. chris matthews stating he was glad hurricane sandy hit because it helped obama! pure kooks and nut cases there, no news.

    November 20, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  24. Nick

    All cable news has a bias and is considered "entertainment" to those who follow. I think CNN has a liberal bias.. although not as extreme as MSNBC. Fox news gets a special award for most bratty, childish, and immature news organization. "Fair and Balanced" is just another way of saying that we know we are biased, but its ok because its just to get back at liberals! Almost every article on fox is an opinion piece with a hard right stance taking the same cheap shots at the president.

    November 20, 2012 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  25. bill

    Jersey Girl – Elaine, is that you?

    November 20, 2012 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
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