Mike Carlson, Associated Press
In this file photo taken Sept. 12, 2011, Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, shakes hands with Texas Gov. Rick Perry before the start of a Republican debate in Tampa, Fla.

SALT LAKE CITY — Rick Perry is the media darling of the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Pew Research Center reports in a new study released Monday, "How News Media and Blogs Have Eyed the Presidential Contenders During the First Phase of the 2012 Race."

"In the first months of the race for president, that weeding out period before citizens ever vote or caucus, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has received the most coverage and the most positive coverage from the news media of any GOP contender."

Perry topped the GOP field by being a "primary newsmaker" — the focus of at least half of any given news article — in 17 percent of all campaign stories. Mitt Romney finished second, qualifying as primary newsmaker in 13 percent of the documented campaign coverage.

Additionally, coverage of Perry's campaign trends positive with greater relative frequency than any other candidate's, by generating 1.6 positive stories for every negative piece. Michele Bachmann slightly trails Perry in that category, with 1.3 positive articles for every negative story.

Romney's media coverage, Pew reports, is uncanny in its consistency. For instance, even as Herman Cain overtook Perry two weeks ago as the candidate receiving the most coverage and most positive coverage — the result of significant fluctuations in the frequency and tone of media portrayals regarding both Cain's and Perry's campaigns — the news coverage allotted to Romney held remarkably steady.

"Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains the one constant — portrayed as the ever-present if not passionately embraced alternative in the GOP field. Despite often leading in the polls, Romney has typically received less coverage and less positive coverage than his chief rival of the moment. … Yet what stands out most is consistency. While other major candidates have risen and fallen in the amount and tone of coverage received, the basic arc of Romney's narrative has wavered little from week to week from May to early October."

Pew classifies former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum as "the long-shot duo."

"Their coverage patterns seemed to reflect the same fundamental dynamic. The media considered them long-shot candidates to win the GOP nomination, partly based on poll results, and consequently they received considerably less coverage than such figures as Perry, Romney, Bachmann and even (Sarah) Palin."

Pew based its analysis on news coverage from "a core list of mainstream news outlets. … That core list includes 52 different news outlets from newspapers, cable news, broadcast television, the 12 most popular news websites in the country, and radio news (NPR, syndicated radio headlines and three talk radio personalities)."

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