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Media Biased Towards Bush, Survey Shows

by Jeff Elliott

the media study
The American press has treated George W. Bush far better than Al Gore, casting the Texas Governor as a moderate and "compassionate conservative" while portraying the Vice-President as a liar tainted by scandal, according to a new study.

The study by the Pew Research Center and Project for Excellence in Journalism found that a whopping 76 percent of news stories about Gore had a negative tone, with only 14 percent of the reports having a positive theme about his competence.

Bush has had almost three times more positive coverage, with 40 percent of the news of the candidate portraying him as a non-traditional Republican. The vast majority of stories and commentaries with this theme appeared during the short February - April primary season, when Bush was being challenged by Senator John McCain.

The unusual research project evaluated over 2,400 media items from February to June, monitoring seven high circulation newspapers and several TV/Radio programs with large audiences.

Good news for Bush, bad for Gore
The study was bad news for Gore in several ways. Many of the negative stories discussed Gore's "Pinocchio problem" and how that would affect the campaign. Even worse for the Gore camp was news that nearly half of his total coverage was devoted to his role in questionable fundraising, and how that might harm his chances.

Also shown is that Gore's campaign has failed to get its message out to the media. Only two percent of the Gore coverage offered his side of the story about the exaggerations. Gore's workers even failed to set the record straight -- although some of the accusasions against him weren't true.

Gore fundraising was the number-one character issue about either candidate that was discussed on both radio and television. Some programs hammered away at the topic, tying it to questions of Gore's honesty. Hardball with Chris Matthews on CNBC was quoted in the study: "Do you think the American people are so jaded by what they've seen over the years that they don't care if a guy goes to Buddhist monasteries and has nuns rip off $5,000 checks and hand 'em to him and claim afterwards he was drinking iced tea and must have been in the bathroom and he didn't know what -- I mean, these are -- these aren't funny."

While Gore's role in fundraising was singlemost popular topic, least discussed character issue was Bush's coasting through life on family connections. Only 15 percent of stories about Bush raised the question (Yes, he has: 10 percent; no, he hasn't, 5 percent). The study suggested that one reason for this light coverage was because reporters had done "surprisingly little digging into his record and background."

Questions about Bush's intellegence were also treated gently. Fewer than one-third of coverage about his qualifications even mentioned it, and half of those were in the context of his leadership ability.

the character survey
A companion public survey by the Pew Research Center was released at the same time that shows media coverage hasn't yet influenced their views of either candidate.

Although Bush's family connections were rarely mentioned in the media, over half of those surveyed thought that yes, he had ridden on his father's coattails. And the media's most discussed issue -- possible Gore fundraising scandal -- only made an impression on one person our of four.

The studies also show Gore has the most to lose. According to the study, about half of Americans are "less likely" to vote for Gore if he has a tendency to lie or exaggerate. The survey also found that forty percent of the voters would think less of Gore if he was tied to illegal fundraising.

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Albion Monitor July 31, 2000 (

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