The "liberal media bias" often cited in conservative circles apparently extends beyond the traditional news media. A new study by the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that Mitt Romney has been the brunt of more than twice as many late-night jokes as President Barack Obama during the current election cycle. The study monitored the four major network late-night hosts (David Letterman, Jay Leno, Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Fallon) since the end of the party conventions last summer and found that Romney has been the target of 148 jokes, tops on the list among political figures. The President finished a distant second with 62 jokes. GOP Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan also finished higher on the list (5th) than gaffe-prone Vice President Joe Biden (8th.)
Whether or not there is a political bias behind the numbers is a point of dispute depending on who you talk to. Garth Jowett, Communication Professor at the University of Houston, thinks Romney is just an easier target. "I think the fact (Romney) takes himself so very seriously made him more obviously, the opportunity for jokes." Democratic strategist Penny Lee makes a similar argument. "They've had four years of poking fun at President Obama, so the new kid on the block probably gets a little more of the heat." But Dan Gainor with the MediaResearchCenter, a conservative watchdog, sees it far differently. "Whether it's the comedians themselves or their writers, which is often the case...they're all on Team Obama," he says. "It's just laughable, it's amazing that anyone thinks conservatives can get a fair shake anywhere on broadcast television."
A closer look at the research appears to back up Gainor's argument. The same study back in 2008 found the Republican ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin far outpacing then-Senator Obama and then-Senator Biden in the late night jokes. In fact, Obama finished fourth in the "joke race" that year behind McCain, Palin, and outgoing President George W. Bush.