HIGHLIGHTS of COVERAGE of the GENERAL ELECTION
This page provides a summary of research results for the Christian Science Monitor’s photographic coverage of the 2012 presidential election and the GOP primaries.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR PHOTOS of PRES. BARACK OBAMA*
A smile was the most frequent expression on both men’s faces, even in the photos taken in the relatively acrimonious settings of the debates. The Monitor tended by default to select positive or neutral images of the candidates.
CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR PHOTOS of GOV. MITT ROMNEY*
Over one-third of the Monitor’s photos featured both candidates — a consequence of the number of photographs taken during the presidential debates and then repeated over the following days.
These six images of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are a sampling of photos published by the Christian Science Monitor during the three weeks of the PrezPix study. Clicking a photo links to the Pinterest board of that photo.
- Researchers pinned a total of 142 photos from the Christian Science Monitor over the three weeks of the general election — 61 photos of Pres. Obama and 80 photos of Gov. Romney. Over the course of the three weeks, researchers pinned roughly a quarter more photos of Romney than of Obama.
- Very few photographs showed either candidate actively engaged with their supporters, a factor of The Monitor publishing a great number of photographs of both Obama and Romney while talking from the floors of the presidential debates. Most typically those photos showed the two candidates on stage together — and especially for the week of the second debate, they tended to picture Obama relatively negatively.
- The Christian Science Monitor’s campaign coverage appeared on its home page and “USA” section; most stories had photos at the top of articles — all were pinnable to Pinterest. The Monitor’s daily “Photos of the Day” slideshow also at times featured photos of Obama or Romney; those too were pinnable. (One major slideshow explicitly focused on “artsy” ways to photograph the campaign. The images were quite striking, but the number of them and the original angles of the cameras skewed some of the “normal” data, likely changing the tone of the photos of Romney to be more “negative.”) Researchers also noted that the Monitor reused many photos for multiple stories.
POSITIVE / NEGATIVE TONE of PHOTOS
These six pie charts show the percentage of positive — neutral — negative photos of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney from the Christian Science Monitor coded by researchers during the three weeks of the PrezPix study.
- Sept. 17-23 — Two weeks prior to the first debate, the Christian Science Monitor published* a significantly higher percentage of “positive” photos of Obama than of Romney. Romney’s “positives” essentially equaled his “negatives.”
- Oct. 1-7 — In the week of the first debate, researchers recorded a dramatic drop off in the percentage of “negative” images of Romney, while photos of Obama trended more “negative” than during week one.
- Oct. 15-21 — During the week of the second debate , the tone of the Monitor‘s photographic coverage of Obama became even more “negative” than the two previous weeks, while the tone of the coverage of Romney trended only slightly more “negative,” and remained roughly as neutral as the week of the first debate.
HIGHLIGHTS of COVERAGE of the GOP PRIMARIES
Throughout the February and March 2012 Republican primary campaign, CSMonitor.com published a similar number of photos of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum — and in each case, roughly five times as many photographs of those two front runners as of Gingrich or Paul. The Christian Science Monitor was one of the few outlets in the survey, however, that published more photos of Paul than it did of Gingrich over the one month study period.
Researchers pinned a total of 65 images of the candidates during the research period: 28 photos of Mitt Romney, 25 photographs of Rick Santorum, 5 of Newt Gingrich and 7 of Ron Paul.
The evenness of the numbers of the two leading and the two trailing candidates, however, partially hides the tone of coverage. The Monitor’s photographic coverage of Mitt Romney appeared a bit contradictory: photos of him with supporters appeared very positive, while photos of Romney on the podium depicted him more neutrally. By contrast the Monitor published more uniformly positive photos of Rick Santorum — he was often shown smiling, both when he was with voters or on stage. The photos of Ron Paul also appeared relatively positive across the board, while researchers evaluated those images that the Monitor published of Newt Gingrich to be more neutral in tone.
Clicking on the number of pins in the subheads below links to the Pinterest board of photos of the candidate.
ROMNEY / 28 PINS *
NEUTRAL: Researchers noted that the photos of Mitt Romney published by CSMonitor.com hit two different tones: images of Romney engaging with supporters portrayed him quite positively — as friendly and approachable, often smiling. By contrast, those that pictured Mitt Romney speaking often presented him in a negative manner, as stiff or stern, researchers found.
- Unlike many of the other news outlets considered in this study, CSMonitor.com selected relatively few images of Mitt Romney wading into crowds to shake hands and converse with supporters. Coders noted that the Monitor selected close-ups or photos taken from middle distance (waist up) most often that often omitted those around the candidate. Still, upbeat images did appear of Romney interacting with others, including several positive photos of Romney and his wife, and two of him with infants in his arms.
- Researchers observed that most of CSMonitor.com’s photos of Romney speaking to an audience portrayed him somewhat ambivalently: he typically appeared confident (a positive), but at times that confidence appeared aggressive (a negative); at best researchers coded those images as neutral in tone.
SANTORUM / 25 PINS *
POSITIVE: By comparison to the photos that CSMonitor.com published of Mitt Romney, the news outlet published more images of Santorum smiling than images that pictured him with any other facial expression. About half the images of Santorum show him with supporters and in almost all those occasions the Monitor selected photos of him smiling — both of which factors are often the determining factors for positive coding.
- The majority of the photographs showed Santorum with a positive expression on his face; coders characterized those images as portraying him as friendly, approachable and charismatic.
- By contrast, researchers noted that, like those images published of Romney, CSMonitor.com published more neutral or even negative photos of the candidate from the podium. The only images the Monitor published of Santorum where he was not smiling were those of when he was speaking. Almost all of those photos depicted him with a neutral expression (such as in the image above) or frowning.
GINGRICH / 5 PINS *
NEUTRAL: Researchers noted that they could pin only five photographs of Newt Gingrich from CSMonitor.com. In all the photos, Gingrich is addressing an audience, and in four out of the five images, the American flag is dominant.
- None of the images of Gingrich published by the Monitor show him mingling or talking with supporters, an observation that in part led coders to evaluate the tone of the images as neutral, because he repeatedly appears distant from voters.
- It is also interesting to note that in all five photos, Gingrich has his arms outstretched, palms up, in either a “here it is” or a “shrugging” gesture. By contrast, those images the Monitor published of Romney and Santorum from the podium typically show both men with one hand raised, with finger pointing or fist held high. This difference led coders to evaluate the images of Gingrich as presenting him as less strong or confident than Romney or Santorum — despite the trappings of the American flag and his appearance in all five images in a formal business suit.
PAUL / 7 PINS *
POSITIVE: Researchers could only pin seven images of candidate Ron Paul during the month-long period of study, a number consistent with the general trends researchers saw across the news outlets in this study.
- Three out of the Monitor’s seven photos of Paul show him reaching out to or shaking hands with his supporters, leading researchers to note that the photos presented Paul as friendly and approachable.
- The other four images depicted Paul on the podium, at times faintly smiling, at other times with finger raised to make a point. All seven images positively portrayed Paul, showing him as confident and engaged — a more positive presentation of Paul’s candidacy than in other news outlets.
The Christian Science Monitor is an international news outlet based in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to its website, The Christian Science Monitor also publishes a weekly magazine, a daily news briefing, email newsletters and a mobile edition.
PINTEREST: The website interfaced with Pinterest well. All photos on the site appeared “pinnable,” and in reverse, when photos “pinned” to Pinterest boards were clicked, they led back to the Monitor article associated with the photograph. The photos that were embedded in the articles and blog posts were easy to pin in their full size after clicking on the article.
CONTEXT: The Christian Science Monitor was started in 1908 by Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist. In 2008, the Monitor’s editor, John Yemma, announced that the newspaper would discontinue its daily print edition, and publish instead a magazine-style publication once a week. Today, despite its religious affiliation, the Pulitzer-award-winning news outlet has a reputation of politically balanced coverage.