Chatter Rankings: August 2008


Good morning, Watchblog! After a two-year hiatus, Chops has returned to contribute to the Watchblog dialog ahead of the 2008 presidential elections, the decision of what to do about Iraq, and lots more fun politics. During the past two years I earned a Masters degree in Economics, and am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in the same program. I maintain Global Review as my personal blog; my old Watchblog posts are still here. This time around, I intend to not comment on my own posts; email me if you are desperate for clarification.

Enough about me.

I'm sharing this month's Chatter Rankings on Watchblog for the first time. I've maintained the Chatter Rankings for over two years now, in an attempt to measure the coverage different candidates are receiving in the media. Early in election cycles, all publicity is good publicity, so measuring chatter may give us a strong indication of who is going to break into the lead once the serious polling and voting begins in a few months.

Tell me what you think of the rankings, investigate the past rankings, and look at the summary graphs for a picture of the action over an extended period.



The big news this month is that the pro-Democrat bias in reporting has reached a drastic high (again): 63% of all chatter was about the Democrats, during a month that spanned the Ames Straw Poll (a G.O.P. event) and not much else. That is to say, this month editors had more choice in what stories to run, and they chose to talk and talk and talk about Hillary and Obama... and Edwards and Richardson and Biden and Dodd, all of whom got far more coverage than their correspondingly irrelevant second-tier Republicans. Here's the Democrats' percentages this year:

2007JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAug
Dems61%68%59%58%57%55%59%63%


The discrepancy does not arise from the number of candidates: a quick glance shows that the top three Democrats are all above the top Republican, and the disparity continues on down the line. Nor is it because of the inclusion of more "benchmark" Democrats like Al Gore; without Gore, Dean, Kerry, and Rice, the Democrats score 62% this month instead of 63%. Also: Tommy Thompson isn't really up, that's the news surge from him announcing his candidacy is over. That was painless. Also on the outs (but it's not even newsworthy), Jim Gilmore. I'll probably drop them from the rankings next month.

On to the rankings!

Rank Candidate ChatterRank Change
R.1 Sen. John McCain 3,1330
R.2 Rudy Giuliani 3,0630
R.3 Gov. Mitt Romney 2,4960
R.4 Fred Thompson 1,5700
R.5 Ron Paul 674+2
R.6 Secy. Condoleezza Rice 4890
R.7 Gov. Mike Huckabee 398+2
R.8 Sen. Sam Brownback 3540
R.9 Tommy Thompson 316+5
R.10 Rep. Tom Tancredo 243+3
R.11 Rep. Duncan Hunter 214-1
R.12 Newt Gingrich 256-1
R.13 Sen. Chuck Hagel 181-8
R.14 Jim Gilmore 46-2
....................................................................................................
D.1 Sen. Hillary Clinton 6,5360
D.2 Sen. Barack Obama 5,4020
D.3 Sen. John Edwards 3,7120
D.4 Gov. Bill Richardson 1,537+1
D.5 Sen. Joseph Biden 1,482+2
D.6 Sen. Christopher Dodd 1,370+2
D.7 Sen. John Kerry 1,069-1
D.8 Al Gore 624-4
D.9 Rep. Dennis Kucinich 5400
D.10 Howard Dean 336-1
D.11 Mike Gravel 237+1
D.12 Gov. Mark Warner 145+1
D.13 Sen. Russ Feingold 111-2
D.14 Wesley Clark 870

Notes: The Chatter Rankings are created by searching each candidate's name plus "2008" in the Google News database. This month tested but not qualifying are John Cox (219) and Jeb Bush (72). Non-contenders are kept on the rolls as Vice-Presidential possibilities (e.g. Rice) and benchmarks (e.g. Dean).

See brand new graphs of the Chatter Rankings plus Chatter Rankings from July, June, May, April, March, February, January, December 2006, November, October, September, August, July, June, May, April, March, February, December 2005, August, July, June, and May.

Posted by Chops at August 17, 2007 10:14 AM
Comments
Comment #229732
The big news this month is that the pro-Democrat bias in reporting has reached a drastic high

Perhaps because the Republican candidates are all lame and uninteresting?

In fact, I’m sure the Republican candidates prefer to run low-profile. The more media scrutiny they get, the worse they’re going to look. I mean, Giuliani’s own family won’t vote for him. What do you think America will do once they get to know him as well as his family does?

And lobbyist/do-nothing Senator, Fred Thompson, is keeping the media at bay by not announcing his candidacy until really late in the game. His campaign strategists must figure the less people find out about him, the better his chances are.

Seriously, Republicans want this election to focus on Democrats. Mark my words, there will be no battle over issues waged by Republicans. They will once again try to make the election about “character” rather than substance and the less the media knows about the Republican candidates’ character (and conversly the more jiucy gossip they dish about Democrats) the better for them.

Posted by: American Pundit at August 17, 2007 12:23 PM
Comment #229746

“That men never turn rogues without turning fools is a maxim, sooner or later, universally true.”

Thomas Paine

Posted by: JR at August 17, 2007 1:51 PM
Comment #229751

I’m sure that it is just my liberal bias showing but I see the Democratic “bench” as being rich and deep, with 7-8 of the candidates being outstanding choices for prez and vice. I want smart, there is not a dummy among them. I want experienced: Clinton, Biden, Dodd all fit this requirement, I want passion, Kucinich, Edwards and Obama bring great energy to the debate. I want a president who is able to articulate and persuade, qualities sadly lacking in w’s administration. All the candidates on the Democratic side are strong on their abilities to commuicate.
The Republicans, however, present a fairly weak group of candidates who are burdened by both the record of the current administration and the need to appeal to a truly fringe group of republicans who have largely driven the bush agenda. Look at the three candidates (Huckelbee, Brownback, Tancredo) who have repudiated evolution theory ( Revealing themselves, in later qualifications, to be opining about a subject they know little about) in favor of pandering to the fringes. Look at the flip-flops in their positions (Romney and Guiliani). The strongest, most capable candidate offered (McCain), is trailing badly. He says what he thinks, bad mistake. Fred Thompsen doesn’t have a chance in hell of going anywhere in this process. He’s kept his mouth shut; that tells me he knows it too.
I like the republican party’s stand on immigration. This resonates with me and with, i think, a majority of the voting public. I like the recent efforts of the administration to straighten out the mess (do i have to say which one?) They have appointed competent leadership in petreaus and the new sec of dod. It is all too little too late but it reveals a certain level of sanity that has been sadly lacking. I like the fact they got rid of that repub senator from Virginia, what was his name? talk about electing more of the same, he was dumb as a fence post!
There is going to be a democratic president in Jan 09. There is going to be a strong democratic majority in the house and a few seats added in the Senate. I think it is inevitable. just some thoughts.

Posted by: charles ross at August 17, 2007 2:08 PM
Comment #229761

Welcome back Chops, and congratulations on your degree.

I wish you would reconsider your decision against replying to your own posts. Us independants are growing in favor, and always seeking partisan ears with which to rattle!

Posted by: wtc7 at August 17, 2007 4:04 PM
Comment #229770

The fact that the republicans are getting less artime is representative of the lack of newsworthyness of the republican party.

The republicans have shown us mind-blowing proportions of lies, corruption and distortions of every kind. We have seen child-molesting republicans getting swept under the carpet by their felow party-members, lies to Congress and the American people and the U.N., money acceptence from illegal or knowingly laundered sources, perversions of the democratic right to vote carried out at the very least by means of obfuscating the rights to vote in democratic areas by deprivation of machines or by fake or staged riots over voting issues carried out by republican party operatives in Florida or by redistribution of voting machines in ohio, treasonous violations of public revelation of covert operative C.I.A., manipulations of intelligence and broad denials of any knowledge of criminal conduct that just doesn’t add up at all.

The American people are sick and tired of it. What you are seeing is not media bias, it is the reality that the republicans have lost the public trust. They are not news-worthy. Nobody cares!

We see candidates like Giuliani and Romny whos diseminations are quatumly obvious and we move on. The media must sell add time. Only intentioanly biased sources such as Fox, can get away with selling stories of dishonest people to their audience.

The rest of the American people have been burned far to much by this republican party.

Posted by: RGF at August 17, 2007 6:04 PM
Comment #229771

The republicans have shown us mind-blowing proportions of lies, corruption and distortions of every kind. We have seen child-molesting republicans getting swept under the carpet by their felow party-members, lies to Congress and the American people and the U.N., money acceptence from illegal or knowingly laundered sources, perversions of the democratic right to vote carried out at the very least by means of obfuscating the rights to vote in democratic areas by deprivation of machines or by fake or staged riots over voting issues carried out by republican party operatives in Florida or by redistribution of voting machines in ohio, treasonous violations of public revelation of covert operative C.I.A., manipulations of intelligence and broad denials of any knowledge of criminal conduct that just doesn’t add up at all.

True, true. However, with the possible exception of reveling a CIA operative, there’s not a thing on that list that the Democrats don’t do also.

Posted by: DamnTheParties at August 17, 2007 6:15 PM
Comment #229773

I wouldn’t worry. Fred Thompson’s coming to the rescue and making it clear that he’s gonna focus on true priorities, like overturning Roe v. Wade and passing a Constitutional Amendment banning gay marriage.

Posted by: KansasDem at August 17, 2007 6:30 PM
Comment #229779

The American public is in a mood for political change. Republican candidates to date, are for the most part (Ron Paul excepted) for maintaining the status quo of the last 6.5 years, hence, what they have to say is not NEW, and NEW is what attracts News. (Funny how NEW is the Core word in NEWS, isn’t it?)

Most of the Democrats are at least talking about change from the status quo, and that makes what they have to say, NEWS!

This topic is like a no brainer when one considers the profit motive of media and how it is inextricably attracted to NEW stuff to report on as opposed to known and commonplace. Is it media bias, or is it famously free market enterprise at its finest drawn to where the profits are? Maybe a little of the former, but, definitely a huge amount of the latter.

Sometimes irony is bitter to swallow. Is it better to throw it up and deny it, than swallow it, even if swallowing it is the cure for what ails ya?

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 17, 2007 7:39 PM
Comment #229781

BTW, welcome back Chops! WatchBlog will be an even more debatable site to visit as a result.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 17, 2007 7:45 PM
Comment #229784

The whole trouble is, the Republicans are not aiming for a new direction. They’re aiming to defend their current direction, out of sheer political desperation, the hope that if they convince people to follow the status quo, they can avoid landing with a loud thud on election day.

What they fail to realize is that this will merely accelerate the thud, and also bring more of a crowd to cheer for it. The time has come for Republicans to stop rationalizing the failures of the past several years.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 17, 2007 8:11 PM
Comment #229797

Chops,
Welcome back! It will be interesting to see how your charts match developments in the coming months, as we pass through the dog days of an off-year and progress towards the 2008 election.

It is certainly possible that there is a liberal bias in the media; but there are obviously other viable explanations as well.

First, and this has already been mentioned, there is no “fairness doctrine” in coverage. The stories which are interesting, draw readership, and attract advertising are the stories which will receive coverage.

Second, the bias may simply reflect the political leanings of the country. The media may simply follow the bias of voters as a whole, rather than shape it. No one suggests voters are split 50/50 between the two major parties, and there is no fairness doctrine to force that perception.

Third, the Democrats may spark more passion and engagement among voters, which may be reflected in your data. (Whether the passion and engagement results in marriage remains to be seen). For example, the Republican straw poll in Iowa attraced 24000 participants in 2000. The latest one attracted only 14000.

Posted by: phx8 at August 17, 2007 11:32 PM
Comment #229798

Welcome back.

You give ‘em what fer with the numbers, but Dems do not believe in such things when they do not prove Dem points.

Charles

It is true that Dems have candidates who are experience, smart, passionate and articulate. Unfortunately, no Dem candidate possesses more than two of them.

It is especially true that the experienced are not passionate.

We have the top three. A lawyer whose first public office is the Senate and has been there six years. Then we have a first term senator and one who quit after his first term. You have nut cases luck Kucinich and just plain weirdos.

Dodd and Biden have good experience, but Biden is running for Sec of State and I am not sure what Dodd hopes for, but it ain’t president.

Dodd will never be president, but he has one thing going for him - he supports the carbon tax.

Posted by: Jack at August 17, 2007 11:33 PM
Comment #229801

Jack,
The numbers are interesting. They may represent media bias. Then again, they may represent the bias of the country as a whole.

Imagine if all the Democratic candidates tried to capture the liberal base by running to the left of Kucinish. The Republican candidates are doing exactly that, only on the right end of the spectrum. It is a recipe for disaster in 2008.

Also, something rather extraordinary happened with a Republican candidate. For the past three decades, Republican primaries resulted in the coronation of annointed institutional candidates: Reagan in 84, Bush in 88, Bush in 92, Dole in 96, Bush in 2000 & 2004. But this time, the institutional candidate, McCain, defied high expectations and self-destructed.

For the first time in the memory of most people, the Republican nomination is open. Unfortunately, a weak collection of far right Republican candidates, a collection fundamentally out of tune with desires of liberals and moderates and even some conservatives, is failing to generate any coverage, or buzz, or electricity, which is what the numbers presented by Chops may indicate.

Posted by: phx8 at August 18, 2007 12:02 AM
Comment #229802

The “chatter rankings” at this stage are pretty predictable, considering that journalists have a lot of choice in what they choose to cover and journalists are that the best estimates are that journalists are Democrats by a ratio of 9-1.

Once we’re down to one Republican nominee and one Democratic nominee, this will necessarily even out because you can’t talk about one candidate in a campaign without mentioning his/her opponent.

That journalists are in the tank for Democrats isn’t even debatable. Just last week, we had the staff at the Seattle Times whooping it up over the resignation of Karl Rove, and also learned that during Bush’s State of the Union, the staff of MNBC openly booed the president while they watched on their monitors.

Honestly though, I don’t care that much about liberal bias in the mainstream media anymore. As Thomas Jefferson said, we can “tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”

This is why it’s important to fight such things as the “fairness doctrine,” which doesn’t seek to instill balance in liberal newsrooms but to censor and shut down the pockets of resistance to their agenda wherever it flourishes.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 18, 2007 12:13 AM
Comment #229804

LO,
Journalists booed the 2003 State of the Union address? Good for them! It was UNQUESTIONABLY the worse speech ever given by a president. Here is the link:
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/01/20030128-19.html
Anyone who can read that without groaning, booing, or derisively laughing cannot read in the first place. Do not take my word for it. Read the speech. Worst ever.

9:1 ratio? Hmmm. The numbers presented by Chops suggest a 3:2 ration, which actually mirrors most polls on voter identification of Democrat v Republican, approval ratings, voter opinions about issues like health care, global warming, Iraq, and so on. Just a wild coincidence, eh?

“Once we’re down to one Republican nominee and one Democratic nominee, this will necessarily even out because you can’t talk about one candidate in a campaign without mentioning his/her opponent.”

Excellent point!

In an earlier comment on this thread, American Pundit suggests the Republican nominee will avoid running on issues, and concentrate on attacking the personal narrative of the Democratic candidate. That is nearly certain. What issue could a Republican possibly run upon, and expect to win more than one third of the electorate?

Anyone care to name an issue?

Posted by: phx8 at August 18, 2007 1:08 AM
Comment #229805

Phx8, I think that the campaign contributions that journalists actually make are a better measure of party-affiliation than what journalists write about. Those numbers speak of a 9-1 liberal bias among journalists.

Chops’s numbers tell us some things, but all they’re based on is the number of Google hits each candidate’s name receives. They tell us nothing about what those stories are positive or negative. A hundred journalistic hit jobs on Guliani wouldn’t mean that reporters are conservative simply because they only wrote 50 puff pieces about Obama.

If you’re ideologically opposed to Bush, then you might very well have groaned, booed, and hissed during that State of the Union speech. If you agreed with what was said, you might stand up and cheer. That is exactly the point: the reporters booing had their own ideological agendas. Personally, I didn’t care for the speech or particularly dislike it. It seemed like pretty typical boilerplate to me—certainly nothing unusual in style or substance from most speeches of this kind. Do you seriously think that if Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton gave a bad speech, either on the stump or at a State of the Union, that journalists would boo, hiss and groan in unison? Please.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at August 18, 2007 1:33 AM
Comment #229810

LO,
Again, good point about the google hits: “… They tell us nothing about what those stories are positive or negative.” And many of the candidates will wash out as the campaigns progress.

The 2003 SOTUS is boilerplate? I would encourage people to read the speech, which I linked, especially the last third on Iraq, and draw their own conclusions.

As for Rove- it would be difficult to find anyone writing positive articles about “The Architect.” Fred Barnes- who is not really a journalist- spoke somewhat favorably. But it is hardly a matter of bias to criticize Rove. Whether liberal or conservative, the chief political stragetist for Bush created a divisive atmosphere which ultimately undermined the president and the Republican agenda, and resulted in a very poor showing in the 2006 midterms. Rove should have been SO fired after the midterms, it is a wonder he remained in position as long as he managed.

Btw, earlier I suggested a 3:2 ratio. A better estimate would be 6:4. But the point holds true; the numbers presented by Chops roughly reflect the preferences of the electorate on most issues.

Posted by: phx8 at August 18, 2007 2:21 AM
Comment #229811

Chops should consider the following facts: The Republican hopefuls, almost to a man, have all given the news organizations one story to report: we’re following Bush’s example. Ron Paul is the sole dissident there, and it’s generally acknowledged that he will not win the nomination.

Additionally, Even Republicans have strong reservations about their candidates. They’ve beat the social conservative drum for ages, and these two Northeastern Republicans could hardly be called that. One’s a Catholic with multiple divorces, who’s pro-gay and pro-choice, and the other’s a Mormon, who spent most of his career as a pro-choice moderate as well. The others are so far right they’d probably lose in a national contest.

And of course, there’s a big alienation factor with the Republican party, both with Bush and the party in general People are burned out.

Folks are focusing mainly on Democrats because that’s who the next president likely will be, for reasons that have nothing to do with media bias.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at August 18, 2007 8:20 AM
Comment #229815

Chops,

I would say welcome back, but I’ve only been posting here for about a year, so I shall simply say “Hi!” The more Righties to pick on, the happier the L is, so thus I say huzzah for your return. Too bad you don’t reply to your own posts, but if you are working on a PhD, I understand. The less writing you have to do, the better, huh?

LO,

I think that the campaign contributions that journalists actually make are a better measure of party-affiliation than what journalists write about. Those numbers speak of a 9-1 liberal bias among journalists.
That may well be the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever written. A liberal bias in the media means that their journalism is biased, not their pocketbooks. Yet their journalism, as phx8 pointed out, is lockstep with the public opinion. This is the same crap that the Right has spewed since “Bias” was published, and it has the same lawn-fertilizing qualities now as it had then.

I hate to break it to you Righties, but the media is supposed to have a liberal bias. The entire point of a free and independent press it to be there to stick a pin in the @$$&$ of the Powers that Be, to be a watchdog against the excesses, foibles, and downright abuses of those in power. Remember, freedom of the press is important enough that the FFs decided to mention it in the founding document of our country. Entrenched policital clout is almost by definition conservative, and thus journalism is almost by definition liberal. This entire media bias mantra that comes from the Right strikes me as nothing but a bunch of very sour grapes

L

Posted by: leatherankh at August 18, 2007 9:47 AM
Comment #229822

What a load. Perhaps the MSM is overreacting a bit because of their HUGE failure in honestly reporting the runup to to Bushcos stupid invasion of Iraq. They failed to fact check the carefully constructed lies and propaganda put out by the Whitehouse and most,the ones with integrity,are embarssed for it.
Objectivity and an understanding of the complexity of issues seem “liberal” to many simplistic members of the right.For example,those that still believe Iraq was involved in 9/11 or the the mytical WMDs were moved to Syria.
I’ll believe the MSM has a left bias when there is a serious discussion of the benefits of nationalizing the oil companies on CNN. The MSM are gardians of the status quo. If the status quo is shifting to the Dems for now ‘blame the corrupt,incompetant Rep leadership of the last 8 years.

Posted by: BillS at August 18, 2007 12:08 PM
Comment #229826

phx8
“What issue could a Republican possibly run upon, and expect to win more than one third of the electorate?

Anyone care to name an issue?”

Abject Fear and Religious Extremism has worked pretty well for them. Maybe they’ll stick with those.
Here’s one newsworthy issue they definitely can’t run on.

Posted by: Adrienne at August 18, 2007 1:41 PM
Comment #229918

I find it odd that mostly liberals are writing on this piece by Chops and foaming at the mouth as usual. No surprise that the MSM is liberal, has been for decades thru many elections. Now, however, the libs equate a liberal press with a liberal electorate. How silly when one looks at recent polling data revealing a Democrat controlled Congress with favorability ratings falling and Presidential ratings rising. Sensing that their sometimes beloved Hillary is going to win the Democrat nomination with no neutral voters to attract I believe the libs are desparate. BHO and JE are loosing traction and the MSM is doing all it can to lift their boats.

Posted by: Jim at August 19, 2007 12:24 PM
Comment #229983

Jim,

The “MSM” is most assuredly NOT liberal.

If you don’t, won’t or can’t believe that then I ahave an exercise for you:

Start a long term comparison of American media sources to International ones. Also compare our coverage to the more complete information available from human rights NGO’s across the globe.

If you can be honest with yourself about the excercise, it will shock you.

Posted by: RGF at August 20, 2007 11:26 AM
Comment #229988

If journalists are more likely to be Democrat than Republican, then the interesting question is “why?” My undergraduate degree was in journalism and I worked a few years as a newspaper reporter and reporter. In my experience most of us did tend to be liberal. In fact, most of the people in my college journalism department were liberal (let me clarify — most of us were left of center, but often only just; no communists or out-and-out socialists, at least by my standards). I think there is something about the field that appeals to enough to liberals that they can overlook the crummy pay and insane hours.

You want more conservatives in journalism? Get more young conservatives in the field. Get them to make the sacrifice. The truth is, most of the conservatives I knew in college were looking for ways to make bigger bucks. Come to think of it, how many conservatives are in non-required English classes? Or music classes? Or art?

Posted by: Gerrold at August 20, 2007 12:42 PM
Comment #230015

Leatherankh, you have touched upon the fundamental relationship between the media and conservativism of power. It is a relationship that cannot be undone without altering the First Amendment. Something a few conservatives and liberals have been at work on.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 20, 2007 5:14 PM
Comment #230016

Media has a BIAS alright! It is a Bias toward profits in their news presentation and selection. This is the greatest threat to the First Amendment, far greater than any liberal or conservative bias.

Posted by: David R. Remer at August 20, 2007 5:16 PM
Comment #230036

Much ado about a completely unscientific and inaccurate poll. The results don’t tell you anything, except that a fuzzy, finite search on the internet yielded certain numbers. Not to mention that the premise is faulted from the start. How do we know that 90% of the count is not from Fox news criticizing the Democrats?
A more precise poll would be to pull the petals off of a daisy while reciting, “Democrats will win, Republicans will win,” etc.

Posted by: Cole at August 20, 2007 7:11 PM
Comment #230037

LO,

Actually, I know for a fact that in some newsrooms editors cheer over the misfortune of Democrats. I interned at the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal in 1984 and saw it. I was very disturbed. When after the completion of my internship I was offered a job, I didn’t even bother to respond. Other newsrooms I worked in were more conventional. It was understood that overt political cheering was bad form.

That said, what really troubles me is the blurring of opinion/entertainment/news. On the Left, we have Keith Oberman. On the Right — well, the usual suspects qualify. This move over the last decade or longer is far more troubling than the political affiliation of particular journalists. A good journalist knows that he must be fair. Objectivity is impossible, but fairness is not. In practice, that means if you quote one side’s opinion you give the opposition the chance to respond. But these opinion/entertainment/news creatures we have now — that’s simply not good journalism.

(Just to be clear, I have no objections to comedy shows dealing with the news. That is different matter. We don’t expect The Daily Show to be fair or accurate, we just expect it to be funny.)

Posted by: Gerrold at August 20, 2007 7:15 PM
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