Tone of Media Coverage of Bush and Kerry Debates, 2004
The tone of the press coverage of the debates in 2004 was highly negative for Presidential Bush. Nearly 60% of the stories were critical of the President, more than twice the percentage for challenger John Kerry.
How Newspapers Framed the Race
In print, the impact of the debates on the horse race was still a dominant theme, but regional papers were more likely to simply report what the candidates said than national papers were, and other themes got more attention than they did on television.
Who Newspaper Stories Impacted
The insider horse race focus of the debate coverage in 2004 is evident in who the stories talked about being impacted. Only about a quarter of newspaper stories focused on things that would directly affect citizens in the debates, such as policy positions.
Who Was Covered in Newspapers
Most of the newspaper stories of the presidential debates focused on both candidates.
Tone of Newspaper Coverage of Kerry and Bush
Nearly seven out of ten newspaper stories about Bush’s debate performance were negative, compared with three out of ten about Kerry. This was similar to what people saw on television.
Dominant Frame in Candidate-Focused Newspaper Stories
Newspapers framed stories that focused on Bush in the debates on how they affected his standing in the horse race. Stories about Kerry were just as likely, in contrast, to be straight forward news accounts of what was said.
Who Was Covered on Network News
As in print, most of the stories on network TV about the presidential debates in 2004 were about both candidates, not focused on one or the other.
Tone of Network Coverage of Kerry and Bush
On network television, the tone of the debate coverage in 2004 was even more positive for John Kerry than in the media overall. Nearly six in ten stories were positive about Kerry, compared with less than two in ten for Bush.
How Network News Framed the Campaign
On network news, how the debates might impact the horse race overwhelmed any other theme coming out of the event.
Who Network News Stories Impacted
Roughly eight out of ten news stories about the presidential candidates during the primaries in 2000 focused on things that affected politicians rather than citizens.