HIGHLIGHTS of COVERAGE of the GENERAL ELECTION
This page provides a summary of research results for The Daily Beast’s photographic coverage of the 2012 presidential election and the GOP primaries.
THE DAILY BEAST PHOTOS of PRES. BARACK OBAMA*
Despite Obama’s drop in the polls in early October, most of the Daily Beast’s photos during the weeks of the first and second debates showed Obama either looking confident or at least appearing neutrally. Few showed the president downcast or “negatively.”
THE DAILY BEAST PHOTOS of GOV. MITT ROMNEY*
Photos of Romney appearing combative and on the defensive before the first debate gave way to images of him appearing more confident. But even at the study’s end, researchers still coded more “negative” images of Romney than Obama.
These six images of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are a sampling of photos published by the Daily Beast during the three weeks of the PrezPix study. Clicking a photo links to the Pinterest board of that photo.
- Researchers pinned a total of 188 photos from The Daily Beast over the three weeks of the general election — 87 photos of Pres. Obama and 101 photos of Gov. Romney. The bulk of that difference came during the week of the first debate, when Romney’s poll numbers began to rise.
- As was true across the outlets in the PrezPix study, the greatest number of photographs of the two candidates came from the first and second presidential debates. Many of those pictured both Obama and Romney in a single frame. Often the photos captured a moment when the candidates were speaking to each other, or rather talking over each other — images that emphasized the combative nature of the debates.
- Researchers coded Romney increasingly positively, in part because the September photographs captured him grimacing or making awkward expressions while speaking, while the published photos from the debate weeks showed him with more flattering facial expressions, including smiling.
- The Daily Beast‘s campaign coverage began on its home page, while the main political coverage was gathered in its “Election Beast” section. Photographs often appeared on the left side of articles. Researchers could pin all of the photos on the site to Pinterest.
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 Daily Beast coded by researchers during the three weeks of the PrezPix study.
- Sept. 17-23 — Although The Daily Beast published almost half again as many images of Romney two weeks prior to the first debate as of Obama, proportionately it published* significantly more Romney photos that researchers coded “negative.” Researchers coded almost half of the pinned photos of Romney as “negative.”
- Oct. 1-7 — In the week of the first debate, researchers again coded proportionately more positive photographs of Obama than Romney, but the photos of Romney’s trended more positive.
- Oct. 15-21 — Across all three weeks researchers coded almost half the number of photos of Obama as “positive.” The trend lines for Romney improved each week, until by the study’s last week researchers coded roughly equal numbers of positive photographs of Obama as of Romney.
HIGHLIGHTS of COVERAGE of the GOP PRIMARIES
Throughout the GOP primaries of the spring of 2012, TheDailyBeast.com provided its readership with a skewed look at the Republican race. As the battle for the Republican nomination played out through late February and March, The Daily Beast’s coverage focused largely on the candidacies of Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum and rarely on those of Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul. Researchers pinned a total of 122 photos during the research period: 67 photos of Mitt Romney, 44 photographs of Rick Santorum, 10 of Newt Gingrich and a single image of Ron Paul. When considering only the pinned photos, The Daily Beast had the most disproportionate coverage of all the news outlets in the study, with the greatest proportionate attention to Mitt Romney, and the least to Ron Paul.
The significant difference in the amount of coverage among all four candidates aligned provocatively with the tone of coverage for the four candidates: coders evaluated The Daily Beast‘s coverage of Mitt Romney as positive, images of Santorum as neutral, and photos of Gingrich and Paul as negative.
Clicking on the number of pins in the subheads below links to the Pinterest board of photos of the candidate.
ROMNEY / 67 photos*
POSITIVE: Mitt Romney was considered the favorite to receive the Republican nomination throughout the February/March GOP primaries. The generally positive photographic coverage of Romney by The Daily Beast reflected Romney’s spot as the frontrunner, although coders noted that at times The Daily Beast ran photos of Romney framed in such a way as to prompt questions from viewers about his inner character (see left below).
- In the vast majority of The Daily Beast‘s photos of Romney, he was pictured either smiling or laughing, or was captured in mid-speech, but with a positive expression on his face. A literature review of the impact of photos on audiences suggests that when viewers are shown images of a candidate’s smiling face, they are left with a positive — and often lasting — impression, and conversely when they see images of an angry candidate they are left with a negative impression.
- When compared to other candidates, Romney was rarely photographed alone. In more than half of The Daily Beast‘s photos of him, Romney is pictured either surrounded by supporters or with his wife, Ann, legitimizing his appearance as a candidate who is taken as a serious contender by voters.
SANTORUM / 44 photos*
NEUTRAL: Throughout his campaign for the Republican nomination, The Daily Beast’s photographs of Rick Santorum tracked the roller-coaster of his popularity over this period. The lack of consistency in tone of The Daily Beast‘s selection of photographs of Santorum can be seen as an indication of the ups and downs in the polls.
- The Daily Beast rarely selected photos of Santorum with his supporters — especially when compared to the photos it published of Romney. The majority of the time, The Daily Beast ran photos of him either alone or with his political opponents. (Note, for example, the two stories on the left.)
- Coders noted a certain ambivalence in photographs selected in The Daily Beast. While the Beast published photographs of Santorum while he was smiling (as in the photo right, for example), even some of those images appeared framed to catch the candidate in situations that appeared more “photo-op” than genuine.
GINGRICH / 10 photos*
NEGATIVE: The Daily Beast published ten photographs of Newt Gingrich during the time frame studied — and with such a small sample size, there can be few significant observations. Still, it is noteworthy that half the time, The Daily Beast chose images of Gingrich alone. In several of those examples, Gingrich is set apart, or (as in the photo to the left) caught in a “Big Brother”-type moment.
- Seven of the 10 photographs of Gingrich published by The Daily Beast show him addressing an audience. Two of those images show him in media appearances with people in the background, but no photos pictured him “mingling” with supporters. Coder also noted that all ten photographs are taken from a low angle — a circumstance that together with his facial expression and hand gestures contributes to an impression that he is superior to voters.
PAUL / 1 photo*
NEGATIVE: Researchers were able to pin only one photograph from The Daily Beast of candidate Ron Paul — perhaps an indication of The Daily Beast‘s view of Paul’s legitimacy as a candidate. Mitt Romney, by contrast, was photographed 67 times.
- The lone photograph of Ron Paul by The Daily Beast during the time studied focused on his footwear — hardly a “presidential” issue. In addition, the photograph of Paul chosen makes him appear vulnerable and alone. He’s seen surrounded only by campaign security.
The Daily Beast 2012 General and Primary Election Coverage The Daily Beast compiled major, if not often extensive stories about the candidates and their respective campaigns, often with a corresponding photograph, under its Politics tab. The Daily Beast, with significant help from the wire services, covered the candidates on the campaign trail, from primary results to personal stories of the candidates.
PINTEREST: The Daily Beast integrated well with the Pinterest platform used for this project; it was very rare for a photograph not to “pin.” Once “pinned,” each photograph when clicked from the Pinterest board then led back to the original article.
CONTEXT: The Daily Beast, originally founded in 2008, is an online news and opinion site founded by Tina Brown. In late 2010, The Daily Beast and Newsweek merged to become The Newsweek Daily Beast Company, which is owned by IAC. While The Daily Beast does post original content, including that from Newsweek, it also serves as a curator of other news and opinion sites, as suggested by its banner over its central column: “READ THIS / SKIP THAT.” While the site has no formal political stance, it is widely considered to be left-leaning.