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.
The End of “Network News”
What happened this summer, and particularly last week, is likely to be recalled as the end of the era of network news. At the very least, mark this as the moment when the networks abdicated their authority with the American public.
Character Themes and Associations with the Candidates
The character themes embedded in the coverage of the candidates in the spring leading up to the conventions tended to emphasize negative attributes of George Bush and John Kerry.
Appearance of Character Themes and Rebuttals
For both Sen. Kerry and President Bush, rebuttals of the dominant themes of the campaign were not frequent. The charge of Kerry being liberal received the most rebuttals.
Sources for Character Theme Statements
The dominant source for what the press was writing about the candidates in the spring of 2004 was the campaigns themselves, including the rival campaigns’ attack operations.
Percent of Themes by Candidate
The dominant candidate campaign themes for the 2004 election focused on President Bush and were negative in nature.