HIGHLIGHTS of COVERAGE of the GENERAL ELECTION
This page provides a summary of research results for Bloombergs’s photographic coverage of the 2012 presidential election and the GOP primaries.
BLOOMBERG PHOTOS of PRES. BARACK OBAMA*
Together with Politico, Bloomberg was the only news outlet that treated both candidates roughly on par across September and October — even though the tone of coverage did shift over the course of the campaign season.
BLOOMBERG PHOTOS of GOV. MITT ROMNEY*
Researchers noted a striking similarity in the tone of the photographs for both men, no matter how differently they were trending in the polls.
These six images of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are a sampling of photos published on Bloomberg.com during the three weeks of the PrezPix study. Clicking a photo links to the Pinterest board of that photo.
- Researchers pinned a total of 221 photos from Bloomberg over the three weeks of the general election — 93 photos of Pres. Obama and 128 photos of Gov. Romney. Across the three weeks, Bloomberg published* roughly a third more photographs of Romney, with its attention most disproportionately focused on Romney in September.
- Over the course of the study, researchers noted that Bloomberg’s tone of coverage — at least as far as its photographic coverage — did not closely track the polls. This was surprising, as the tone of coverage of most other news outlets followed the polling more closely: on other sites, researchers tended to find more “positive” photos of Obama when he was high in the polls after the minimal bounce of the Republican National Convention and the fallout from the leaked “47 percent” video, and a turn towards more “negative” photos following the drop in his poll numbers following first debate.
- Images from the debates dominated the photographs during October — even well beyond the days of the events and their immediate aftermath. Both Obama and Romney appeared repeatedly in photos from the podiums, although Bloomberg used split-screen photos showing both men at once less often than many other outlets. During the week of the second presidential debate, the tone of Bloomberg’s photographs for both candidates shifted from majority “positive” to majority “neutral.”
- The signal difference in the photographs of the two candidates occurred in September, two weeks before the first debate: Romney appeared most often alone, while Obama appeared with supporters more than a third of the time.
- Campaign stories with accompanying photographs appeared most reliably on Bloomberg’s “Politics” page, as well as its “Election” and “White House” subpages. Stand-alone photographs illustrated most of those articles, and those were all pinnable on Pinterest, although thumbnails and videos were not always pinnable on Pinterest. Photos of the candidates were not consistently published on the home page, making it necessary to click through to the “Politics” subpages. In general, the site was not photo intensive. Bloomberg published fewer photographs on the weekend.
POSITIVE / NEGATIVE TONE of PHOTOS
These six pie charts show the percentage of positive — neutral — negative photos of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney from Bloomberg coded by researchers during the three weeks of the PrezPix study.
- Sept. 17-23 — Two weeks before the first debate, the percentages of “positive,” “neutral” and “negative” photos for both Obama and Romney looked roughly the same, with more “very positive” photos of Obama.
- Oct. 1-7 — In the week of the first debate, researchers coded photographs of both candidates equally positively, with slightly more photos of Romney recorded as “very positive” compared to the previous week and slightly fewer of Obama coded that way.
- Oct. 15-21 — The week of the second debate, researchers coded roughly half of Bloomberg’s photos of both candidates as “neutral.” Researchers also noted that Bloomberg published more “negative” photographs of both men than in the previous two weeks of research.
HIGHLIGHTS of COVERAGE of the GOP PRIMARIES
Throughout its February and March 2012 coverage of the Republican primary campaign, Bloomberg.com paid significantly more photographic attention to Mitt Romney than the other top GOP candidates. Only the Daily Beast paid greater attention (proportionately) to Romney. Researchers who daily checked Bloomberg pinned a total of 161 photos of the four men: 83 photos of Mitt Romney, 52 photographs of Rick Santorum and 21 of Newt Gingrich. Ron Paul received minimal attention with only five images pinned during this time period.
The skew of these numbers does, however, reflect the polling data across the month-long period. And it is noteworthy that coders evaluated Bloomberg’s images as generally positive in tone for Romney, Santorum and Gingrich, despite the disparity in the attention to them.
Clicking on the number of pins in the subheads below links to the Pinterest board of photos of the candidate.
ROMNEY / 83 PINS *
POSITIVE: Bloomberg’s photographs of Mitt Romney showed him in a positive light: coders evaluated over half the photos as portraying Romney as charismatic, confident or friendly.
- Coverage of Romney showed him surrounded by supporters far more frequently than photos of Santorum and Gingrich, leading to coders evaluating the images as positive in tone.
- As a consequence of selecting photos of Romney with supporters around, Bloomberg showed Romney in fewer close-up photos than Santorum. Yet, interestingly, when coders compared just the shots of the men speaking from podium, Romney still appeared more frequently with a background of supporters than did Santorum.
- A further comparison of photographs of the candidates while speaking, showed that nearly a quarter of the photos of Romney that Bloomberg published showed him with a positive expression (smiling, laughing, etc.), while only about a tenth of the photos published of Santorum and Gingrich while speaking showed either man smiling.
SANTORUM / 52 PINS *
POSITIVE: While researchers coding Bloomberg‘s photographs of Rick Santorum noted that overall their tone was positive — that Santorum appeared in the photos as a serious and confident candidate — coders did not evaluate Santorum’s photos as positively as those published of Romney, or even of Gingrich (even though Bloomberg published more than twice as many images of Santorum as Gingrich).
- One reason for the less positive evaluation of the photographic coverage: Bloomberg showed Rick Santorum alone in over a quarter of the pinned images. He is also pictured with potential supporters in just over a third of his images, fewer than Mitt Romney, who was shown with potential supporters in more than half of his images.
- A second reason for the less positive evaluation of the images: Santorum is smiling and laughing in fewer photos than either Romney and Gingrich; in Bloomberg’s photos, Santorum appears to be a serious contender for the presidency, but not a friendly and approachable one.
GINGRICH /21 PINS *
POSITIVE: Although researchers pinned only about a quarter as many images of Newt Gingrich on Bloomberg as they did of Romney (21 to 83), the relatively fewer number of photos of Gingrich on Bloomberg still represented him in a positive light: in about half the images he is smiling.
- Gingrich appeared more often alone in the photos selected by Bloomberg than he appeared with supporters, and he was shown sharing the limelight with the other major candidates, just about as frequently. But most strikingly, Gingrich was pictured with his wife almost five times more often than Rick Santorum and over double the rate of Mitt Romney. (One explanation for that disparity: in early January 2012, Santorum’s daughter, Bella, was admitted to the hospital. As a consequence Karen Santorum (Rick Santorum’s wife) was frequently off the campaign trail, causing her to not be photographed as often.)
PAUL / 5 PINS *
NEGATIVE: Coders were able to find and pin only five images of Ron Paul from Bloomberg during the collection time period. Because of this, there was not enough data for coders to draw substantial conclusions, beyond noting that the lack of images would likely reinforce an impression that Paul was not a serious contender for the presidency. Coders did make few observations about the existing images:
- Two of the pinned images (above left and above right) show Paul surrounded by security. Bloomberg never showed Paul with potential supporters.
- In two other images, Paul is shown in debate settings where he is barely visible. The remaining image is a screen grab from a video.
During the 2012 primary and general election season, Bloomberg used an “Election 2012” page to cover the relevant campaigns. This section contained articles and photo galleries relating to the election. Separately, the site also hosted a blog, “Political Economy,” (which was changed to Political Capital during the general election) where posts would often include images. The majority of presidential pictures found on this site were pinned from articles found on the “Election 2012” hub , but some were also from “Political Economy/Capital.”
PINTEREST: Bloomberg (Bloomberg.com) integrated easily with Pinterest. Using the “Pin It” button, article images, slideshow images, as well as thumbnail screengrabs of videos were all able to be pinned.
CONTEXT: Bloomberg.com is a website owned by Bloomberg L.P. which self-identifies as “the pre-eminent source of business and financial news and insight online.” In 1982, Michael R. Bloomberg and others founded Bloomberg L.P. The company has digital, magazine and broadcast divisions that employ 2,300 media professionals in 146 bureaus across 72 countries.