(Photo: REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)
New research by the Pew Research Center has found that U.S. media largely focused on publishing stories with more supportive views of same-sex marriage than the opposing position, between the period of March 18 to May 12.
"The findings show how same-sex marriage supporters have had a clear message and succeeded in getting that message across all sectors of mainstream media," Pew summarized in its report, published on Monday.
The results determined that as many as 47 percent of the 500 stories examined from March, which was a week prior to the Supreme Court hearings on the issue, had more supportive statements on same-sex marriage than opposing views by at least a 2-to-1 margin. Another 44 percent had roughly an equal mix of both viewpoints, while only 9 percent focused more on statements supporting traditional marriage.
In total, news stories with more statements in support of gay marriage exceeded those supporting traditional marriage by a margin close to 5-to-1.
Pew identified that most arguments in favor of same-sex marriage tried to paint it as a civil rights issue, while those opposing a change in the definition of marriage noted that it could lead to negative consequences for society.
The Huffington Post was identified as one of the news sites that featured a large number of gay-marriage supporting stories, with 62 percent of its 365 stories filled with statements of support for same-sex marriage, which Pew says is close to the level of support reported on LGBT sites.
Social networking outlets like Twitter, on the other hand, displayed a more fair public debate on the issue. Twitter postings on gay marriage were almost evenly split between support and opposition, which Pew says is more closely reflective of public opinion than what the news media suggests.
The main sample for the research study was taken from six websites, 11 newspapers, programs from the three main network news outlets along with PBS, as well as from cable TV channels and talk radio.
"Finally, commentators who favored same-sex marriage, such as Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, spent more time discussing the issue than commentators who opposed it, such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh," the study added.
The Supreme Court is set to rule on two major same-sex marriage cases, California's Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, before the end of June. A poll earlier this month found that most Americans believe that states should be allowed to continue deciding on their own the legality of the practice.
As many as 60 percent of respondents to The New York Times/CBS News survey offered that the decision on same-sex marriage rights should be the states' prerogative, while 33 percent argued that the federal government should have the power to decide the issue. The same poll also found that 51 percent of Americans are in favor of gay marriage, while 44 percent remain supportive of traditional marriage.