Media & Communication Department

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Kaitlin O'Shaughnessy
Presidential Election 2004: A Content Analysis of Mainstream Media Coverage of Bush, Kerry, and Iraq

This content analysis was conducted during the Fall 2004 semester in Media Power and American Politics, and was designed to assess the news media's coverage of President Bush and Senator John Kerry's position on the critical issue of the Iraq War during the 2004 Presidential campaign. I performed a content analysis on three different news sources, The New York Times, Newsweek, and CNN.com. By examining a diverse sample of news articles, I was able to determine how much coverage was devoted to each candidate's position on the war, the source of the statement, and the content of the coverage across a wide range of mainstream media. The content of the statements proved to be most telling as to what kind of information Americans received about each candidate's issue position, as the largest percentage of statements were "character statements", references to the other candidate's personal characteristics, judgments, or actions without further explanation of the issue position. At the conclusion of my research, I found that the media content provided the public with minimal information on either candidate's position and plans for the War in Iraq. This was significant because it demonstrated that the information we receive from the media may not be what we should use to form our understanding of important political policies and positions.