April 30, 2001

The First 100 Days

Strengths and Weaknesses

The study found distinct differences in where Bush versus Clinton earned praise. Bush won high marks when the area of his presidency being assessed had to do with leadership, but had a harder time than Clinton when it came to ideology.

Overall, positive stories concerning Bush's leadership outweighed negative by more than two-to-one (32% versus 14%).

Assessment of Bush
Positive 32% 17% 46%
Neutral 53 47 31
Negative 14 36 15
Satire 1 0 8
Total 100 100 100

For Clinton, in contrast, negative stories about his leadership outweighed positive (30% negative, 23% positive). When it came to their policy agenda, Bush saw almost the reverse. Just 17% of stories were positive while 36% were negative.

The tone of the coverage about Clinton's policies was equally divided (28% positive and 28% negative).

Assessment of Clinton
Positive 23% 28% 31%
Neutral 45 43 42
Negative 30 28 15
Satire 2 1 12
Total 100 100 100

Both men fared well when it came to assessments of their character, but Bush fared better. Nearly half of all stories, 46%, were positive for Bush and just 15% were negative. For Clinton, less than a third were positive, (31%), while just 15% were negative.

The possible explanations for the differences are varied. It may be, as some conservatives might argue, that journalists have an unconscious distrust of Bush policies, which is reflected in the numbers.

It may also be, however, that Bush has staked out policies that are less moderate than Clinton did, which accounts for the comments in stories weighing somewhat more heavily against him.