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Coverage Crunching

The Center for Media and Public Affairs has released a study of network coverage of this year's midterm elections up to this point, and it looks like we're getting more such coverage than we have in a long time.

According to CMPA, "[t]he first four weeks of this year's midterm coverage has been more than three times as heavy as in 2002 and more than three of the last four offyear elections combined." Now, much of this coverage has been Mark Foley-related – the Congressman/underage male page Internet sex scandals seem to generate quite a bit of attention for some reason. But "[a]fter taking the Foley scandal coverage into account…the 60 remaining stories still equal the 1994 total and exceed the combined totals of 2002, 1998, and 1990." So there's something else going on here as well.

That something else is largely the fact that for the first time since the Newt Gingrich-led Republican takeover in '94, commentators think there is a good chance that power will be handed over in one or both houses of Congress. One can't help but wonder if there is a correlation/causation question in all this. That is: Is it possible that having a whole bunch of media folks suggesting that power might change hands makes it more likely that such a power shift will actually happen? Surely news outlets are reporting on the potential power shift because there are factors independent of press coverage that suggest it could take place. But it does seem likely that increased coverage of the midterms will effect factors such as turnout. And the last time we saw midterm coverage at this level, in 1994, power ended up changing hands.

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