HIGHLIGHTS of COVERAGE of the GENERAL ELECTION
This page provides a summary of research results for Huffington Post’s photographic coverage of the 2012 presidential election and the GOP primaries.
HUFFINGTON POST PHOTOS of PRES. BARACK OBAMA*
Like other outlets, Huffington Post posted a significant number of split-screen photos of the candidates to compare their expressions. Many of HuffPost‘s were coded as “negative” — especially in the week of the first debate.
HUFFINGTON POST PHOTOS of GOV. MITT ROMNEY*
A comparison of “halo” images on HuffPost shows Romney’s “halo” (below) more “tarnished” than Obama’s (above) — even though overall in Week 3 of the study researchers coded the candidate’s photos as equal in tone.
These six images of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney are a sampling of photos published by Huffington Post during the three weeks of the PrezPix study. Clicking a photo links to the Pinterest board of that photo. (To see more discussion about “halo” photos see the page: “Why Study Photos?“)
- Researchers pinned a total of 538 photos from Huffington Post over the three weeks of the general election — 225 photos of Pres. Obama and 313 photos of Gov. Romney. Researchers found and pinned almost 100 more photos of Romney on HuffPost than of Obama — over 2x as many in September and 25-30 more photos in the weeks of the debates.
- No matter whether Romney was struggling in the polls in the aftermath of the leaked “47 percent” video or Obama’s poll numbers were failing after the first debate, researchers found more photos of Romney those weeks, and they coded more of those as “negative.” In other words, the amount of coverage of Romney did not appear to track with his rise or fall in the polls.
- Prezpix researchers found that most of the photographs for both candidates from Huffington Post were taken from the debates or from various campaign appearances. Most showed the candidates alone in reasonably tight close-up, or with each other. Researchers noted there were very few photos of Romney with supporters, and only slightly more of Obama with supporters.
- Researchers were able to pin to Pinterest all of the photos on the Huffington Post, except for video stills. Researchers gathered a great number of photos from Huffington Post, in large part because the site often published lengthy slideshows of the candidates; all of those photos were pinnable.
POSITIVE / NEGATIVE TONE of PHOTOS
These six pie charts show the percentage of positive — neutral — negative photos of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney from Huffington Post coded by researchers during the three weeks of the PrezPix study.
- Sept. 17-23 — In the first week of the PrezPix study, researchers coded the Huffington Post‘s photos of Obama significantly more positively than those of Romney (many were coded as “very positive”), and coded significantly more negative photos of Romney (about a third of those were coded as “very negative”). Researchers did, however, find and pin more than double the number of photos of Romney as of Obama.
- Oct. 1-7 — In the week of the first debate, researchers coded more than twice as many “negative” images of Obama on HuffPost as the previous week, although the number of positive images of Obama stayed roughly the same. By contrast, researchers coded more “positive” photos of Romney than in the week before the debate, but also slightly more “negative” photos of him as well.
- Oct. 15-21 — In the third week of the PrezPix study, researchers coded the photographs of the two candidates almost identically; the percentage of photos coded as “negative,” “neutral” and “positive” almost exactly matched.
HIGHLIGHTS of COVERAGE of the GOP PRIMARIES
Throughout the GOP primaries of the spring of 2012, The Huffington Post provided its readership with multiple perspectives on the Republican race. As the battle for the Republican nomination shaped into a two-man race through late February and March, The Huffington Post still continued to cover the candidacies of not just Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, but also Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.
HuffPost did not treat Gingrich or Paul as afterthoughts to the campaign season. Indeed, The Huffington Post was notable for its considerable photographic attention to Gingrich and Paul — proportionally, it published more photos of the two trailing candidates than any other outlet in the study.
In total, researchers “pinned” to Pinterest 223 photos: 74 photos of Mitt Romney, 65 photographs of Rick Santorum, 53 of Newt Gingrich and 31 photos of Ron Paul.
Clicking on the number of pins in the subheads below links to the Pinterest board of photos of the candidate.
POSITIVE: The Huffington Post’s published generally positive photos of Mitt Romney — often in close-up, often smiling, and often with either an American flag or his campaign banner behind him. In other words, Huffington Post frequently published photos of Romney that the candidate’s own advance team had set up and hoped for.
- The HuffPost photo editors often ran photos of the candidates on stage, or published split-screen photos with their stories — sometimes of all four candidates, other times of two candidates juxtaposed. When editors chose to juxtapose several candidates together, the photo choice had the effect of relative impartiality; the editors typically chose similar shots of the candidates (most were smiling, most were serious).
- Despite the fact that researchers coded a majority of HuffPost photos of Romney as positive, coders found only a couple of images of Romney mingling with supporters. HuffPost’s failure to show Romney not just talking to but engaging with his audience — together with a brief evaluation of their accompanying articles —suggests that while individual photos taken in isolation might have been positive, the overall framing of Romney by Huffington Post made him appear less concern with the public.
POSITIVE: Roughly half of the photographs of Rick Santorum pinned by researchers show him either on-stage with other candidates or gathered together with them in a spit screen photo — but on those latter occasions, he was often the candidate who had the most positive expression: often either smiling and engaged or pointing and forcefully making a point.
- As with the images of Romney, coders found only a couple of images of Santorum mingling with supporters. This suggests — as in the case with Romney — that readers of the Huffington Post were getting mixed messages —that while a given photo of Santorum might in isolation be understood as positive, the framing over all of the Santorum candidacy was not as positive as some of the visual images might have suggested. HuffPost portrayed neither Romney nor Santorum as in touch (literally) with the public.
NEGATIVE: Coders evaluated the Huffington Post’s portrayal of Gingrich as negative: in many HuffPost photos, Gingrich was often pictured alone and looking down on viewers. Researchers noted that Gingrich appeared “serious,” but that he also seemed “stiff” and “arrogant,” rather than “honest” or “genuine.”
- Roughly a third of the pinned images of Gingrich show him on stage with two (Romney and Santorum) or more of the other candidates — and in situations (and with expressions on his face) where he did not show to great advantage.
- In the photos where Gingrich was pictured alone, readers could intuit that Gingrich was addressing an audience, but his supporters were usually invisible. Yet those photos, which were most often close-ups, often showed Gingrich frowning while talking. Even the pictures that HuffPost published of Gingrich on stage with the other GOP candidates or on the campaign trail with his wife, tended to capture him at a moment when he appeared uncomfortable or a bit supercilious.
NEUTRAL: The Huffington Post’s images of Paul were mostly neutral to negative. The majority of the photographs were either of Paul alone addressing an audience or with the other candidates during a media appearance.
- Coders characterized the photos of Paul is picturing him as “isolated,” “depressed” and “stiff.” Huffington Post selected photos that showed Paul appearing more tired and a lot older in manner and appearance than the other candidates.
During the 2012 presidential election, The Huffington Post provided comprehensive election coverage on its Politics page, as well as on its home page as well as in other sections. In the Politics section, the site posted daily news articles about the presidential primaries and the individual campaigns of each candidate. The Huffington Post’s coverage also included blog entries, videos and slideshows.
PINTEREST: The Huffington Post synced fairly smoothly with Pinterest; when clicked, photos “pinned” to Pinterest boards led back to the article associated with that photograph. Yet not all of the photos on the site were able to be pinned: screen shots of video clips featured on the website could not be captured and evaluated by researchers.
As a result, researchers could not represent all the components of the full visual experience of a visitor to HuffPost via Pinterest. Therefore the images studied here are a subset of all the visual images of the candidate originally viewable on the site. This, however, was true for most news outlets, especially those with significant numbers of videos.
CONTEXT: HuffingtonPost.com is an American news website, content aggregator and blog founded by Arianna Huffington, Kenneth Lere, Andrew Breitbart and Jonah Peretti. The Huffington Post started in 2005 as a liberal news commentary outlet. In 2011, AOL acquired The Huffington Post for $315 million. In 2012, The Huffington Post became the first commercially run, native digital media enterprise to win a Pulitzer Prize.