Blow up your TV
That's the average amount of time that Midwest television newscasts devoted to political coverage on a nightly basis during the final month of the election campaign. By contrast these broadcasts featured, on average, four and a half minutes of paid political ads.
Those are the findings of a study released today by the Midwest News Index. The project examined evening and late-night newscasts in seven markets: Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Madison, Milwaukee, and Minneapolis/St. Paul. It was led by UW-Madison political science professor Ken Goldstein.
In addition the survey found that the bulk of political stories, some 65 percent, were focused on campaign strategy and polling, rather than issues. These stories lasted an average of 76 seconds--or 13 seconds less than during the midterm elections of 2002.
The stations aired 8,995 political advertisements during newscasts over the last month of the campaign, while running 2,392 election stories. What's more, over 10 percent of those stories actually dealt with campaign ads.
So what topics dominated newscasts during the stretch run of the election season? Sports and weather, of course. Those topics accounted for roughly seven minutes of non-commercial time in a typical 30-minute broadcast.
Larry Hansen, president of the Joyce Foundation, which paid for the study, summarized the findings in a statement: "When you reflect on the recent campaign season, with its relentless assault of outlandish, negative political ads, you can't help but fear what future elections may bring."