Political debates are important message forms, capable of informing and in-fluencing voters. However, news coverage of debates informs and influences both those who watch, and those who do not watch, the debates. This study compared the content (functions and topics) of 10 U.S. Senate debates from 1998-2004 with the content of newspaper articles about those particular debates. Newspaper coverage of debates was significantly more negative than the debates themselves, reporting a higher percentage of attacks and a smaller percentage of acclaims than the candidates employed. The newspaper articles also stressed character more, and policy less, than the candidates. This journalistic emphasis may facilitate the impression that the candidates are more negative than they really are and that candidates are more concerned with character – and less with policy – than their messages indicate. We also discovered that newspaper cover-age of senatorial debates stresses defenses more, policy less, and character more than news coverage of presidential debates.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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