Social media isn’t getting behind either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. In fact, it’s downright negative about both presidential candidates, according to a study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
The report examines coverage of each candidate from the party conventions to the eve of the final presidential debate, finding that both candidates have received more negative than positive news coverage, although the president has a slight edge.
From Aug. 27 to Oct. 21, 19% of stories about Obama in the mainstream media were positive, 30% were unfavorable, and 51% were mixed. For Romney, 15% of stories were favorable, 38% were unfavorable, and 47% were mixed -- a differential toward negative stories of 23 points compared to 11 for Obama.
But the study points out that social media -- specifically, Facebook, Twitter and blogs -- has been far harsher on the candidates than the mainstream media. “There, the narrative about both men has been relentlessly negative and relatively unmoved by campaign events," stated the report, noting that this is "more a barometer of social media user mood than a reflection of candidate action."
Still, there are some differences depending on the platform. Twitter is leaning toward Obama, with 25% of the stories or posts favorable to the president compared to just 16% for Romney. At the same time, 45% of the chatter about Obama has been negative, with 58% unfavorable for his Republican challenger.
On Facebook, which helped Obama galvanize support from young voters in 2008, the conversation about him four years later has turned mostly negative (53%). That compares to 62% for Romney. The two are about even in positive buzz, at 24% and 23%, respectively. The Pew report noted that the perception of Obama on Facebook has actually improved over the course of the debates.
When it comes to the blogosphere, both candidates again are essentially in a dead heat, with 44% and 46% of the discussion negative about Obama and Romney, respectively. “The overall tone of the conversation on blogs for both of the candidates was sharply negative, only just somewhat less so than on Facebook and Twitter,” according to the study.