The honeymoon is over for Obama in the US, but UK media maintain a more balanced view

When US President Barack Obama collected his Nobel Peace Prize last month, many of the UK papers noted the irony of this, considering the amount of negative coverage Mr Obama is receiving over the Afghanistan war.

Research supplied by Echo Sonar

As timesonline wrote in a headline on 10 December: “Barack Obama flies in to collect Nobel Peace Prize as war escalates”. The UK press may be showing some concerns about Mr Obama, but in the US his popularity is falling fast. At in November a report stated: “President Obama's approval rating has hit a new low of 46 percent, according to a FOX News poll released Thursday (19 November 2009). An equal number – 46 percent – disapprove of the job he's doing.”

Obviously, the UK has a different perspective on the US President. When it comes to such issues as his healthcare proposals, it is not surprising that UK newspapers react more favourably than those in the US. PRmoment commissioned research looking at how coverage of Mr Obama has altered in the last six months in the UK, and found that although negative coverage has increased from 7 per cent to 10 per cent, the majority of coverage remains balanced at 77 per cent (just 4 per cent down from June).

What has changed dramatically in six months are the topics that are generating news. Whereas in June there were 193 stories about Afghanistan, in December this increased nearly tenfold to 1,850.


Research supplied by Echo Sonar

Tara Hamilton-Miller, vice-chairman of PR firm Weber Shandwick’s public affairs practice, is not surprised that coverage of the war is so dominant, and says it appears that President Obama's blissful honeymoon is coming to an end. She says: “Less than a year in office and the fine-honed PR machine is taking a pounding, already there are concerns of weakness. By taking on Afghanistan and sending thousands of additional of extra troops, The President now knows what it is like to have a war on his shoulders. Commentators are now openly questioning his experience and his distancing himself from allied countries.”

According to Hamilton-Miller, Obama doesn't like making decisions that could be seen as unpopular, but she believes he has to learn no single speech or policy will please everyone: “Combine the war with fighting for his controversial signature healthcare bill and you have two volatile, highly sensitive subjects. Americans are already asking where the money for troops and hospitals will come from.

“He will have to appease the left of his party, be prepared for battles and keep his allies on side. Stop the dithering, be strong and lead.”


PRmoment asked Echo Sonar to analyse all UK online media coverage of President Obama. The research period compared coverage in 1-13 June with that in 1-13 December 2009. Metrics included daily trend, tonality and leading media topics.


If you enjoyed this article, you can subscribe for free to our twice weekly event and subscriber alerts.

Currently, every new subscriber will receive three of our favourite reports about the public relations sector.

ESG Awards The intersection of Data, Insight and PR Planning PR Analytics 2022 SUBSCRIBE NOW