Study: MSNBC More Negative Toward Romney Than Fox News Is Toward Obama

Phil Griffin Rachel Maddow Lawrence O' Donnell Chris Matthews - H 2012
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Phil Griffin Rachel Maddow Lawrence O' Donnell Chris Matthews - H 2012

The study by Pew Research Center was conducted between Aug. 27 and Oct. 21, encompassing Romney's "47 percent" fundraising video and Obama's lackluster first debate performance.

Flipping the channel to MSNBC or Fox News can seem like choosing whether to watch the election through Democrat- or Republican-tinted lenses. But while both channels are often seen as partisan, which is more negative to its ideological opponents?

One indicator by a new study suggests that MSNBC has recently been more negative in tone toward Mitt Romney than Fox News is negative toward President Obama.

Q&A: MSNBC President Phil Griffin on Whom He'd Poach From Fox News and Why Obama Avoids the Network

On MSNBC, "71 percent of the segments studied about Romney were negative in nature, compared with just 3 percent that were positive," found Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism study (via Slate). On Fox News, "46 percent of the segments about Obama were negative, compared with 6 percent that were positive."

The study notes that "mixed tone" numbers about the segments on the cable networks were not included.

On CNN, the ratings challenged network that's seen as more centrist than Fox or MSNBC, the Pew study found that "18 percent of the stories about Obama were positive compared to 21 percent negative, a mixed narrative. In Romney's case, negative stories (36 percent) outnumbered positive (11 percent)."

The study was conducted between Aug. 27 and Oct. 21, encompassing both the fallout from the secret "47 percent" fundraising video that dealt a blow to Mitt Romney's campaign and the criticism that President Obama received after his lackluster first debate performance. 

While study's indication that MSNBC is just as partisan -- and maybe more so -- than Fox News would've been surprising only a few years ago, the cable network has been actively refashioning itself into a bastion of liberal news and opinion.

Its slogan, "Lean Forward," and accompanying marketing campaign has featured prominent network personalities like Chris Matthews, Ed Schultz, Al Sharpton and Rachel Maddow touting a variety of progressive causes.

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In an appraisal of the channel in late August, New York Times chief TV critic Alessandra Stanley deemed it Fox News' "liberal evil twin" and stated that MSNBC "stains" its centrist leaning corporate sibling NBC News by associating it with liberal causes.

In a Q&A with The Hollywood Reporter, MSNBC President Phil Griffin was asked why President Obama hadn't been on the channel for an interview. Griffin figured that it was because it wouldn't be an "easy interview" for Obama. 

"We are not going to lay down, do an easy interview, and President Obama knows it," Griffin said. "We're not here to be the voice of the administration. There are a lot of things we agree on, but there are no deals. They don't tell us what to say, we don't ask them to come on and then we'll give them a free ride."