Was the media slow to cover the “NDP surge”?

Jack Layton hit a can-you-believe-it mark last week when a CROP poll showed the NDP in first place in Quebec. He hit another when this week’s Ekos poll showed the NDP in second place nationally with a predicted win of 100 seats. As Ekos president Frank Grave told The Globe and Mail: “We’re in terra incognita here.” But would you have known it from the media coverage?

Turns out, we weren’t the only ones who thought newspapers seemed slow to respond to the “NDP surge”. Indeed, according to a new story in Maclean’s, the data proves it.

Maclean’s reporter Josh Dehaas spoke to Stuart Soroka, a McGill University political scientist who spearheads the Federal Election Newspaper Analysis.(We wrote about the project earlier in the election.)

“I thought Layton was going to spike in the volume of coverage and that the coverage was going to be more positive,” Soroka told Dehaas. Instead, Layton’s increases for Soroka’s April 18 to April 24 analysis were wee.

“The media was just slow to adjust,” said Soroka. “It’s possible they thought the first poll was an anomaly.”

That had changed just two days later.

According to Soroka’s report, by April 26, the NDP party was mentioned 2.3 times per article, compared to a previous rate of 1.5 mentions. The Conservatives were mentioned 4.7 times per article, and the Liberals 3.3. times.

Layton’s personal mentions rose to match Ignatieff’s, and nearly Harper’s as well. The NDP leader’s mean number of mentions rose to 1.2 per article compared to just 0.5 mentions days earlier; Harper’s hit 1.9.

The NDP also near doubled their percentage of first mentions compared to the first campaign week, to 20 per cent from 10 per cent.

It will be interesting to see how NDP coverage continues to trend for the few remaining days of the campaign.