Study: Media coverage favors legalizing gay marriage

A new study from the Pew Research Center found coverage in support of gay marriage outweighed negative coverage

Published June 17, 2013 1:05PM (EDT)

                     (AP/Carolyn Kaster)
(AP/Carolyn Kaster)

As Supreme Court decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act and Proposition 8 loom, a study released on Monday by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that most media coverage on the issue slants in support of marriage equality.

After looking at nearly 500 news segments on gay marriage, researchers found stories with more statements supporting gay marriage outweighed those with more statements opposing it by a margin of roughly 5-to-1.

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Almost half (47%) of the nearly 500 stories studied from March 18 (a week prior to the Supreme Court hearings), through May 12, primarily focused on support for the measure, while 9% largely focused on opposition and 44% had a roughly equal mix of both viewpoints was neutral. In order for a story to be classified as supporting or opposing same sex marriage, statements expressing that position had to outnumber the opposite view by at least 2-to-1. Stories that did not meet that threshold were defined as neutral or mixed.

Many of the events themselves during the period studied, such as announcements by politicians and state legislation, reflected movement towards same-sex marriage. Polls show the nation's views have been shifting as well, though there remains significant opposition with 51% of the public in support of legalizing same-sex marriage versus 42% opposed, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.

Support was consistent across all kinds of media, including print and television news; all three of the major cable networks -- including Fox News -- featured more stories with more statements in support of gay marriage.

Supporters primarily framed the issue as one of civil rights, but the messaging was less consistent for opponents. Those who spoke out against gay marriage argued that being gay is a sin and that equal marriage hurts families, among other justifications.

"Certainly it is evident in these findings the degree to which supporters of same-sex marriage were largely successful in getting their message out in a clear way, a consistent way, across a wide swath of the news media," said Amy Mitchell, acting director of the project.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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Doma Gay Marriage Gay Rights Marriage Marriage Equaliy Media Media Coverage Pew Research Center Prop 8