President George W. Bush was completing his second (and final) term in office and Vice President Dick Cheney decided not to run for president. Thus, the 2008 American presidential primary is the first “open” campaign (with no sitting president or vice president competing) since 1952 with highly competitive primaries for both major political parties. This study uses content analysis to investigate news coverage (national newspapers, network television news, and local newspapers) of the 2008 American presidential primary campaign. Most themes in the news concerned the horse race (66%) with somewhat more emphasis on the candidates’ character (18%) than their policy proposals (15%). The most common topics of horse race comments were campaign strategy (24%), campaign events (19%), polls (17%), and predictions (12%). More news comments were positive (62%) than negative (32%) with few comments about the candidate’s defenses (7%). Most comments were unattributed (statements by journalists: 66%); candidates were quoted or paraphrased in about one in five comments; the remaining comments were from supporters (8%) or others (7%).

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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