Right-wing candidates received more news coverage from mainstream media during the 2010 mid-term election season, according to a recent study.
A Pew Research Center survey found that although the Democratic President Barack Obama topped the list, the next three of the top 10 candidates in the media spotlight were members of the so-called tea party movement.
Directly running behind Obama’s coverage and leading the conservative pack was GOP candidate Christine O’Donnell of Delaware.
“O’Donnell’s upset over Congressman Mike Castle — as well as her penchant for controversial statements (some of them well in the past) about everything from dabbling in witchcraft to the separation of church and state — has made her a media favorite,” the Pew report said.
Another survey performed by AOL’s Relegence team that compared coverage of liberals and conservatives over the last year in over 30,000 news websites was also revealing.
“The results are stark,” John Merline, opinion editor for AOL News, wrote.
The perceived outsider candidates received more coverage if they held conservative beliefs, he said, comparing O’Donnell’s race with that of Alvin Greene, a Democratic candidate for US Senate in South Carolina.
“Now it’s true that O’Donnell was a character, but so too was Greene, who had a felony charge on his record and had never campaigned for the nomination,” he wrote. “Plus there was concern that the electronic voting systems might have failed in South Carolina, causing Greene’s win.”
Merline continued, “But while the media went gaga over O’Donnell, by comparison they ignored Greene.”
O’Donnell, in the end, received double Greene’s coverage.
The AOL survey also found that the former GOP nominee for vice president, Sarah Palin, received three times more coverage than the current Democratic vice president, Joe Biden.
Conservative pundit Glenn Beck, moreover, got more coverage than the liberal Keith Olbermann by thousands of stories, save for the month he was temporarily suspended, the survey discovered.
Joshua Holland, the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy (and Everything else the Right Doesn’t Want You to Know About Taxes, Jobs and Corporate America), noted that the findings of both AOL and Pew surveys were consistent with previous studies of the media’s coverage of conservatives.
Holland explained that a 2006 Media Matters study showed that there was a six percent shift rightward among the guests on the broadcast networks’ Sunday political shows from President Bill Clinton’s second term to President George W. Bush’s first.
“To be sure, measuring the amount of coverage conservatives get doesn’t tell you what the tone of that coverage was, but getting an opportunity to present one’s side of a political debate has a lot of value, given the standard-issue he-said/she-said reporting that’s so instinctive to neutral, ‘unbiased’ journalists,” he wrote.
Holland continued, “It’s ironic that the heavy coverage of conservatives ultimately results from their constant whining about liberal media bias. As we can see, gaming the ref works.”