July 27, 2000

A Question of Character

Timing

Gore's difficulties appeared early on. In all, 78% of the assertions about his ties to scandal, and 61% about his untruths came in February and March—during the heat of the primary battle, in part through the rhetoric of Bill Bradley.

There is some evidence Gore's coverage began to improve over time relative to Bush. Nearly a quarter of the stories about Gore's competence, and nearly a quarter of those about Bush's intelligence, came in June, a time when only 16% of the total statements studied were produced.

Similarly, the notion that Bush is a different kind of Republican fell off steadily after April.

All of the assertions about Gore fell off dramatically after he vanquished Bill Bradley in March. There began to be a little more coverage of his character in June. And the theme that was strongest then was the notion of Gore's competence, the one that was the least prevalent earlier.

Timing of Bush Themes

  February March April May June Total
Family Ties 44% 29 4 14 9 100%
Intellect 14% 32 15 15 24 100%
Different Republican 31% 20 29 10 10 100%

 

Timing of Gore Themes

  February March April May June Total
Exaggerates 18% 43 14 9 16 100%
Scandal Ties 21% 57 7 0 15 100%
Competence 15% 31 17 14 23 100%