May 14, 2008

The Media Spotlight Shines Brighter on Michelle Obama than Cindy McCain

Spouse Candidate
Bill Clinton 298 3976
Michelle Obama 57 4389
Cindy McCain 21 2098

3:1-Roughly the amount of coverage Michelle Obama has received this year compared to Cindy McCain.

One major story of the 2008 Presidential election is the extraordinary amount of coverage of Democratic Candidate Barack Obama. From January 1 through May 11, PEJ’s Campaign Coverage Index has consistently seen a gap in coverage of the two party front-runners. John McCain (25%) has been a significant figure in less than half the stories than that of Barack Obama (52%).

One reason Michelle Obama’s coverage may be so high is simply because Democrats are getting more attention since the race on that side has been more competitive. But the roles the spouses play on the campaign trail also may be a factor in the amount of their press exposure. Michelle Obama is an active spokesperson in her own right who aggressively campaigns for her husband. She consents to interviews and makes speeches, which lead to increased media exposure. Cindy McCain, in contrast, takes a more subdued approach, standing by her husband and granting fewer interviews.

Both wives have received their share of media scrutiny. The press has repeatedly cited Michelle for her statement that, “For the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country,” which she told a crowd on February 18 in Madison, Wisconsin,
as well as for a mispronunciation of Nevada. Cindy came under the media spotlight when rumors of a relationship between her husband and lobbyist Vicki Iseman arose in the New York Times; she also received some heat for allegations of plagiarism from a cookbook.

Still, the attention given both wives is dwarfed in comparison to that given the other political spouse this season, former President Bill Clinton. The husband of candidate Hillary Clinton appeared as a lead newsmaker in nearly four times as many stories (298) as the other spouses combined (78).

Note: Significant newsmaker means that at least 25 percent of the story is about that figure