Final Results of the 2008 Election Media Study

December 15th, 2008 at 7:11 pm by David Farrar

I blogged on the 6th of November some fascinating findings from the preliminary results of an academic study of coverage of the 2008 election.

The study is based on an analysis of the leading New Zealand newspapers and television news programmes (TV1 and TV3 evening news) over an eight-week time period. The final results are uploaded here as a pdf – new-zealands-media-coverage-of-the-2008-election-study-final-results

The results:

Overall Media coverage:

Labour 38%, National 34%, Maori 8%, Greens 7%, NZF 6%, ACT 4%, UFNZ 2% and Progressive 1%

Negative Media Coverage

  1. National 38%
  2. NZ First 37%
  3. Labour 36%
  4. Progressive 31%
  5. ACT 26%
  6. United Future 21%
  7. Greens 18%
  8. Maori 17%

So National had a higher proportion of negative stories than NZ First!

Net Positive less Negative Coverage

  1. Greens +14%
  2. Maori +13%
  3. United Future +1%
  4. ACT -2%
  5. Labour – 10%
  6. Progressive – 12%
  7. National – 16%
  8. NZ First – 16%

This suggests to me the Greens and Maori Party were not held to the same level of scrutiny as other parties.

What I found interesting was the further breakdown that found news stories were more negative on National, but analysis stories more negative on Labour.

They also compared total media coverage to the result a party got at the election. The difference between the two was:

  1. Maori +6%
  2. Labour +4%
  3. NZ First +3%
  4. United Future +2%
  5. Greens +1%
  6. Progressive 0%
  7. ACT -0%
  8. National – 11%

Then we have the tone of media coverage of the leaders. And the net positive over negative was:

  1. Anderton +14%
  2. Turia/Sharples +9%
  3. Dunne +5%
  4. Clark +3%
  5. Fitzsimons/Norman -4%
  6. Key – 7%
  7. Hide – 15%
  8. Peters -19%

In the preliminary report, Key and Hide had more net negative coverage than Winston. The re-emergence of the Owen Glenn affair obviously resulted in a change for the last two weeks.

A breakdown by media, finds that Key got much more negative coverage on TV than Helen Clark.

In terms of issues, the major ones were:

  • Economy 28%
  • Law & Order 10%
  • Tax 9%
  • Maori Issues 7%
  • Education 7%
  • Immigration 6%
  • Health 6%
  • KiwiSaver/Super 6%

A very interesting, easy to read report.

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23 Responses to “Final Results of the 2008 Election Media Study”

  1. AG (1,830 comments) says:

    I agree this is a very interesting report. I have a question, however, about some of the coding in it. The methodology states:

    “Tone (positive, negative and neutral) was determined based on matching each reference to a
    media frame or frames. For example, references to a party leaders as “desperate for power”
    or “flip-flopper” were coded as negative frames, while references to party leaders as
    “experienced” or having “bold ideas” would be coded as positive frames. In total, 115
    different frames were identified in this study.”

    What isn’t clear is whether this refers to the comments of the journalists, or any and all claims made in the story. For example, if Duncan Garner says “Labour claims this makes John Key a flip-flopper”, does this code as “negative” coverage of National? If so, then the outcome that: “news stories were more negative on National, but analysis stories more negative on Labour” isn’t actually that surprising, as Labour’s whole campaign was aimed at dragging Key down and so any reporting of its claims would code as negative on National.

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  2. big bruv (14,112 comments) says:

    “This suggests to me the Greens and Maori Party were not held to the same level of scrutiny as other parties”

    More proof that our media are slack, ANY scrutiny of the Greens would see their support plummet.

    The media seem to think that as long as they put a clip on the TV featuring the nice Granny who co leads the Green party they are doing their job, I would love to see her and Russel Norman put under the same spotlight as the leaders of the two major parties.

    The Greens get away with political murder, they make the most outrageous statements and ludicrous claims yet nobody every takes them up on those claims or asks for costings of their policy, it is time that the Greens were exposed for what they really are.

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  3. PaulL (6,032 comments) says:

    What I found interesting was the further breakdown that found news stories were more negative on National, but analysis stories more negative on Labour.

    Another possible explanation is that when doing news stories, the journalists followed their personal bias. Hence, National bad, Labour good. When they did analysis, they found that the reverse was true, and the facts were so clear that they couldn’t hide it. Then again, maybe my bias is showing through…

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  4. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    So National had a higher proportion of negative stories than NZ First!

    Soooooo many explanations…another one for the above being that National screwed up a lot – leaving policy papers lying around, Smith and Williamson saying stupid stuff, not telling their Labour spokesperson Kate Wilkinson what their own policies were, ‘dead rat’ after ‘dead rat’ after ‘dead rat’.

    There are so many possible explanations and angles for this stuff, what can one take out of it if one wants to go beyond face value statistics!?

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  5. Patrick Starr (3,674 comments) says:

    would be interesting to put it into networks – How much of it can be apportioned to Garner at TV3 ?

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  6. kisekiman (219 comments) says:

    Just confirms what most people who read the blogs already know. The MSM in NZ are a bunch of leftist sympathisers who spout poorly researched and analysed garbage.

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  7. mike12 (183 comments) says:

    “would be interesting to put it into networks – How much of it can be apportioned to Garner at TV3 ?”

    Is he still on TV?- I have not watched TV3 news since the secret tape hysteria

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  8. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    Stephen – you know what those numbers tell me?

    That DESPITE the lefty journo’s trying to bad mouth National, the public still voted for them.

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  9. hubbers (139 comments) says:

    To me this post directly relates to a comment from last weeks post on the 2008 Victoria University Post Election Conference. http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz/2008/12/2008_victoria_university_post_election_conference.html

    One of the points for Labour was:

    Blogs not read by a lot of people, but are read by mainstream journalists a lot and are influential

    To me this shows that highly partisan Labour run attack sites like The Standard might be partly achieving their goals despite being full of deliberate untruths and being widely rejected by the public.

    Despite being owned and written directly from the top levels of the Labour hierarchy, Labour spend a lot of time saying that they aren’t and pretending that they are independent left wing blogs. This allows Labour to use their blogs to distribute material that is to libellous/false/negative/nasty/petty/inane without getting their hands dirty.

    On the whole it’s a great strategy for Labour and it seems to be working thanks to the ‘hard working’ NZ press.

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  10. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    I agree Hubbers. The substandard is obviously run by Mike Williams and that self promoting weasel all_your_base (are belong to National, LOL!) with a cadre of lickspittle union reps, labour staffers and a couple of bitter communist IT nerds.

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  11. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    I just think that National screwing up a lot constitutes ‘negative coverage’ – hardly the journos’ fault.

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  12. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    Fair enough. Lockwood, Maurice and Bill did try quite hard to screw up.

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  13. jarbury (464 comments) says:

    I can’t imagine the New Zealand Herald would have had the same results, considering it read much like a National Party propaganda paper for most of the election campaign.

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  14. Tessa Houghton (4 comments) says:

    Hi,

    I can shed some light on a few of these comments/questions:

    AG:
    With regards to coding, yes, if Labour attacked National then that was coded as being negative for National. Comments were coded regardless of who made them, as we felt that the fact that the media let those comments through the gates made them worthy of inclusion and interest. However, if the word ‘attacked’ or something like it was specifically used, then a negative mention would also have been made of Labour, rather than a neutral one. However, overall, I think that Labour’s attack strategy resulted in more net negative coding/coverage for National than it did for Labour, if that makes sense.

    Big Bruv:
    The Greens and the Maori Party got very little policy coverage, but what coverage there was was not uniformly positive – e.g. the Greens population control ideas and a few pieces of Maori party policy were critiqued. Their positive coverage came from the following, in my opinion (I’m the one who read/watched/coded all the articles):
    Greens: Good advertising campaign, some celebrity endorsement.
    Maori Party: Possible ‘kingmakers’, expected to do well in Maori seats.

    Stephen/expat:
    Yes, the fact that National made more gaffes than Labour counted against them in terms of coverage, IMHO, as did the fact that Labour ran a much more attack-based campaign (see my reply to AG).

    Hopefully that clears a few things up,
    Tessa Houghton

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  15. Tessa Houghton (4 comments) says:

    Sorry, one more thing:

    Patrick Starr/Jarbury:
    Yes, I am interested to see the results by source also, as I got the impression that the Herald swung more in favour of National then the other papers. However, these results have not been processed/included in this media release, presumably because each source might not be too keen on publicising their own individual bias, should one exist.

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  16. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    Thanks.

    I guess the point is that analysis of that sort if very difficult to framework wrt to using for the next election.

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  17. Tessa Houghton (4 comments) says:

    Expat:
    In terms of tone/framing; yes, it is. Qualifying statements are necessary. We are hoping to go into a deeper level framing analysis, but it is a mammoth job, translating all the notes attached to every negative/positive mention into a set of frames and applying them to all 17000 mentions, or however many there were. That deeper analysis should provide some more detail re: what kinds of frames were informing these positive and negative tones.

    However, the net coverage of people/parties, policy vs. non-policy is interesting in and of itself, I think. It is a bit of a concern that so much coverage is on non-policy issues, as opposed to policy issues.

    MPP/coalition building was the most covered issue, which is, perhaps, to be expected, and I personally am in favour of the MMP system, but it would be good if the media could cover it a little less (as the only impact that we as citizens can have on it is the way we vote) and talk about actual policy a little more, which is what should really inform our voting. Endless speculative iterations of coalitions have limited value, I think.

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  18. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    I suspect there must be a large story around tone of each parties campaign and how that resonated with the public.

    The media coverage, I believe, was not in synch with the public sentiment to a large degree and this resulted in the left leaning media bias (overall) pushing more public sentiment to the right.

    That, a gloomy economic outlook and a healthy injection of honesty from Key made the difference. IMHO.

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  19. Ross Miller (1,705 comments) says:

    What the f**k did Anderton ever do to top the leaders rating. He is Labour in drag masquarading as a Party Leader solely to pick up an additional $17k from the public trough.

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  20. PhilBest (5,125 comments) says:

    # expat (1648) Vote: Add rating 2 Subtract rating 0 Says:
    December 16th, 2008 at 8:42 am

    “Fair enough. Lockwood, Maurice and Bill did try quite hard to screw up…..”

    Don’t like to disagree with you, expat, but there is a difference between screwing up, and the media saying you screwed up. Did you follow the story of the Herald’s online poll about Lockwood Smith’s so-called screw-up? It was overwhelmingly in support of Lockwood until sometime between 2AM and 3AM it got deluged with thousands of votes against him……….

    Too much of the demonisation of people like Lockwood, and Bob Clarkson, and John Banks, and people like that, is just a jack-up by the media and they need to be “called” on it, not kow-towed to by “conservatives in name only”.

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  21. PhilBest (5,125 comments) says:

    # Ross Miller (802) Vote: Add rating 0 Subtract rating 0 Says:
    December 16th, 2008 at 10:54 am

    “What the f**k did Anderton ever do to top the leaders rating. He is Labour in drag masquarading as a Party Leader solely to pick up an additional $17k from the public trough.”

    There is hardly anything more revealing than that little statistic. It shows that journos ideology is stuck in the dismal failed socialist past.

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  22. Ratbiter (1,265 comments) says:

    “This suggests to me the Greens and Maori Party were not held to the same level of scrutiny as other parties.”

    Why? On the face of it, that suggests to ME that the Greens and the Maori Party could have just had fewer controversial policies, and/or less bribery and corruption going on in the background, compared to other parties.

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  23. expat (4,050 comments) says:

    PhilBest: I’m not arguing that the commies stitched up the polls.

    I am arguing that in an election campaign one shouldnt make Prince Phillip esque comments about ‘those asian chappies with small hands’ etc even if it is true.

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