Key Findings • GOP Primaries

Mitt Romney garnered the lion’s share of media attention during the height of the GOP primaries in February and March — and the online news outlets not only gave him their “column inches,” they made him look good too.

The 18 pie charts below give a comparative overview of how 18 major news websites covered the political campaign and how much attention each gave to the four candidates. 

As one reads across the charts one can see at a glance a few provocative highlights:

  • Winner may not take all, but he may take more than half:  Across news outlets in spring 2012, the four major GOP presidential candidates received widely varying photographic attention with the result that Mitt Romney handily won the photo race, even early in the primary season.  

Every news site except the Dallas Morning News ran more (pinnable) photographs of Mitt Romney than any of his competitors. And four news outlets — Bloomberg, the Daily Beast, the LA Times and USA Today— featured Romney in 50 percent or more of their photographs of the Republicans’ race.  (The Dallas outlet, interesting, essentially flipped the proportion of coverage that Bloomberg, the Daily Beast, the LA Times and USA Today gave Romney and Santorum.)  

    • Out of a total of 3234 photographs depicting the Republican primaries pinned to Pinterest, Romney received the most photographic coverage of all the four candidates with 1,442 photos across the 18 news outlets.
    • Rick Santorum received the second most coverage, with 1,067 photos.
    • Newt Gingrich was the subject of 526 photos.
    • Ron Paul received the least amount of coverage, with only 199 photos.
  • If one evaluates balance by just considering proportional coverage,* HuffPost was the most “fair” and the Daily Beast the least.  Just consider how each of those covered Romney and Gingrich.  HuffPost gave Romney 33 percent of its coverage, while the Daily Beast gave him 55 percent, and HuffPost gave Gingrich 24 percent of its coverage, while the Daily Beast gave him 8 percent.  (See the pages for those two outlets for more details on how they covered the candidates, not just how much they covered them.)
  • There is a home field advantage:  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s website gave proportionately more attention to Newt Gingrich than did any other news site in the study — but is, of course, Gingrich’s home state newspaper and Georgia is the state where Gingrich won the most primary delegates.
  • The underdog matters — but only to a few online-only outlets:  Three of the online-only news outlets — the Christian Science Monitor, Huffington Post and Politico — considered Ron Paul’s campaign worth covering in some detail.  They were the only news outlets in the study to apportion more than 10 percent of their photographic coverage* of the campaign to Paul.
  • The most trafficked news sites — Huffington Post, CNN, the New York Times and Fox News — all pictured both Romney and Santorum positively:  These four news outlets ranked in Alexa’s top-50 visited websites in the U.S..  According to coders, these outlets all pictured Romney and Santorum mostly positively.  The NY Times and Fox ran mostly positive photos of Gingrich, while the Huffington Post ran mostly negative and CNN ran more neutral images.  None of the top four sites ran mostly positive photos of Ron Paul:  NY Times and Fox ran mostly negative photos, according to coders, and CNN and HuffPost ran mostly neutral images.

Click on a pie chart to open up a dedicated page for that specific news outlet.
Note that the evaluation of the primary coverage is below the analysis of the photographic coverage of the general election.

Online-Only News Outlets

Online Newspapers

Major Metropolitan Papers 

Regional Papers 

National Papers 

Online Broadcast (TV & Radio) Sites

The Networks 

Cable News & Public Radio


PrexPix researchers considered how closely the attention to the GOP candidates, as measured by photos pinned to Pinterest, tracked with polling trends.

The graph below is an IBM Many Eyes visualization of national GOP polling data (taken from Real Clear Politics). The time frame for this graph begins with polling data recorded from the Iowa primary on Jan. 3, 2012 and goes all the way to April 3, 2012–when Rick Santorum pulled out of the race.

*Dates denote GOP primaries

The graphic shows that Mitt Romney stayed at the top or close to the top of the polls throughout spring 2012. Perhaps the most telling story to be told from this graph is the rise of Rick Santorum and the decline of Newt Gingrich.

By the time the PrezPix study began on February 25, 2012, Rick Santorum was well ahead of  Gingrich and in fact briefly led in the polls for a few days. But by the end of February and the beginning of March, the poll ranking of the nominees leveled out.  Romney polled at the top, Santorum maintained a close second, Gingrich came in at a distant third and Ron Paul  remained the most consistant, in fourth place.

That ranking roughly paralleled the delegate count for each candidate in the GOP primaries in spring 2012.  See the ManyEyes graphic below for a quick summary of the delegates won by each of the four GOP candidates in the primaries during the timeframe of this study.

GOP Primaries — Delegate count of the candidates.  Click to open a larger, dynamic version of the chart.

For futher information click here to view an interactive timeline that shows which states had primary elections during the timeframe of this study and which candidate won which primaries.  The timeline includes a photo of the winning candidate published the same day of the election. The timeline (seen in a screengrab below) can also be viewed as a flip book, list, or a map.

Click on the photo to go to the Dipity interactive timeline.

The PrezPix researchers found the intersection of polling data and photo evaluation provocative and believe an investigation of the two sets of information would lead to intriguing insights about editorial decision-making.

NB:  Researchers applied the same collection methodology for all the news outlets studied.  It is likely that the researchers on this survey did not collect every photograph published, and, on occasion, certain photographs that could be viewed were not collectible by Pinterest.  The total number of photographs studied, therefore, should be understood to be representative of those published on the news outlets, not an absolute set of all photographs published on all sites.  
It is fair to note, however, that the number of photographs of any individual candidate collected for any given site is a rough indication of the commitment of that site to photographically covering that specific candidate.