The Center for Media and Public Affairs (CMPA) at George Mason University ..... found that Fox News Channel's evening news show provided more balanced coverage than its counterparts on the broadcast networks.
A look at the press release (small PDF) reveals the extent of the balance at Fox, and the imbalance elsewhere:
Fox News Channel’s coverage was more balanced toward both parties than the broadcast networks were. On FOX, evaluations of all Democratic candidates combined were split almost evenly – 51% positive vs. 49% negative, as were all evaluations of GOP candidates – 49% positive vs. 51% negative, producing a perfectly balanced 50-50 split for all candidates of both parties.
On the three broadcast networks, opinion on Democratic candidates split 47% positive vs. 53% negative, while evaluations of Republicans were more negative – 40% positive vs. 60% negative. For both parties combined, network evaluations were almost 3 to 2 negative in tone, i.e. 41% positive vs. 59% negative.
On specific GOP candidates:
Among Republicans, Mike Huckabee fared best with evenly balanced coverage – 50% positive and 50% negative evaluations by reporters and sources. Fred Thompson came next with 44% positive comments, followed by Mitt Romney with 40% positive, Rudy Giuliani with 39% positive, and John McCain with 33% positive.
Here's their methodology, again from the PDF:
CMPA has monitored every presidential election since 1988 using the same methodology, in which trained coders tally all mentions of candidates and issues and all evaluations of candidates. We report the evaluations by non-partisan sources, excluding comments by the candidates and campaigns about each other, because research shows that non-partisan sources have the most influence on public opinion, and they are also more subject to the discretion of reporters. However, we maintain data files on partisan evaluations as well.
Teeing it up: I'll leaving it to commenters to discuss why, of all GOP candidates, Huckabee is the one getting a fair shake from Old Media thus far, and whether the 14-point difference in Dem-GOP positive/negative differentials at the big three networks (47/53 [-6] vs. 40/60 [-20]) will narrow or widen as the campaign progresses.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.