News media coverage of the 2012 presidential campaign is down by about a third from the same period in 2008.

From Jan. 1 to May 15, about a quarter (26%) of the newshole was devoted to the presidential contest. That puts campaign coverage well ahead of the number two story, the economy, at 8%. In the same period four years ago, the campaign accounted for 39% of the newshole, while the economy accounted for 7%.

Election news got off to a big start in 2012 with key Republican contests in Iowa, New Hampshire , South Carolina and Florida. Coverage in January was similar to coverage in the same month four years ago.

But since that point, the early stages of the 2012 campaign – and Mitt Romney’s push to the status of likely GOP nominee – received less coverage that the early stages of the 2008 campaign. In 2008, both parties had hard-fought primary fights. And while Republican John McCain clinched his victory in early March, the Democratic contest between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton was highly competitive well into May. Read More

Russell Heimlich  is a former web developer at Pew Research Center.