Does the Media Pay Attention to Same-Sex Marriage?

How much is the media paying attention to same-sex marriage? According to data from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, the answer would be–not much, at least in 2009.


Only 0.3 percent of the newshole in the surveyed media was devoted to same-sex marriage in 2009.  For perspective, 2009 included the California Supreme Court’s ruling on Proposition 8,  the Iowa Supreme Court’s approval of same-sex marriage, marriage battles in Maine and Washington, and the approval of same-sex marriage in Washington, D.C.

Same-sex marriage stories did the best in newspapers, where they represented 0.5 percent of stories, compared to 0.1 percent on  evening network news, 0.3 percent on online sources, 0.2 percent on morning network morning news, and 0.3 percent cable news.

Coverage peaked from April to June (the California and Iowa rulings) and from October to December (Maine and Washington votes).

The issue was popular on talk radio, representing 0.6 percent of the news hole, while radio news headlines were made up of only 0.3 percent of stories on same-sex marriage.  NPR’s coverage of same-sex marriage represented 0.5 percent of their newshole, while the PBS News Hour talked about same-sex marriage 0.3 percent of the time.

In terms of differences within groups, large and small newspapers had more stories about same-sex marriage than medium-sized papers.  This number may be skewed because of same-sex marriage battles in less-populous states,  like Iowa and Maine.

The CBS Morning Show lead the pack on the morning shows in covering same-sex marriage, with ABC’s Good Morning America in second and NBC’s Today Show a distant third.  In the evening, the rankings flipped somewhat with ABC leading NBC, and CBS a distant third.

On cable, liberal-leaning MSNBC gave the most attention to same-sex marriage, while conservative-leaning FOX gave it the least attention.  CNN was in the middle.

The study also looked at stories connected to race, gender, and gay issues, showing the media overall spent 1.7 percent of its time on those issues, with cable news leading the way.  There was no breakdown of gay issues versus race or gender.

3 Responses

  1. This interactive site is now my new favorite play toy of the week! At first, I thought same-sex issue coverage suddenly seemed incredibly low, until I noticed that Sarah Palin coverage was only .7% of all media. And she was everywhere.

  2. I’m surprised that online news was only .3 percent! But then again, it seems like their methodology excluded smaller news orgs: “We included companies that own sites that have a monthly unique audience of 3 million or more for the ir news sites combined as of the first half of 2009.”

    Aside from that sentence appearing to have a typo, it suggests that niche news sites (such as my own Stop8.org, which reports exclusively on marriage equality) were excluded, which is a shame.

    • You are right about that. So you are really just talking about the HUffington Posts, Slate, Salon, the top political blogs.

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