Fun With Descriptive Statistics About Media Coverage Of The Senate

With George Washington University’s finals week fast approaching, I spent this afternoon hunkered down in the basement computer lab of Gelman library in order to finish up the data set I am putting together for my Legislative Politics research paper. My paper topic isn’t the most ambitious thing, but I find it interesting. Essentially, I’m following in the footsteps of Tim Cook, Stephen Hess and Feverill Squire by looking at who in Congress gets covered by the national media.

The general consensus from the past data — all three of their studies were completed the 1980s — is that it’s mainly who you are, not what you do that gets a member of Congress national press. In other words, institutional leaders get the lion’s share of the coverage.

I’m essentially updating their work for the modern media environment and seeing if they dynamics have changed. My dependent variables in the four models I am assembling are levels of newspaper coverage (combined New York Times and Washington Post), online news coverage (Politico and Salon), network evening news coverage (combined ABC, CBS, and NBC) and cable news coverage (combined CNN, Fox, and MSNBC), via Nexis and the Vanderbilt TV news archive, in the 111th Senate.

I still have to run the models, but I thought it would be interesting to share some of my descriptive statistics:

Average number of NYT/WaPo combined press hits248.9

Most NYT/WaPo combined press hits: John McCain with 2193

Average number of Politico press hits: 233.2

Most Politico press hits: Harry Reid with 2068

Average number of Salon hits: 31.2

Most Salon press hits: John McCain with 290

Average number of evening news press hits: 17.1

Most evening news press hits: John McCain with 172

Average number of cable news press hits: 471.1

Most cable news press hits: Harry Reid with 5237

As you can see, McCain and Reid are easily the most covered senators. This isn’t surprising given that Reid is the Senate Majority Leader and McCain had just been his party’s presidential candidate (running for the presidency has been found to be a significant factor for increasing national media coverage).

I’ll share more when I run my multivariate models.

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