Newspaper coverage of the 1992 presidential campaign: A content analysis of character/competence/image issues versus platform/political issues
Photo of Research Day Poster (1993) with undergraduate researchers left to right (back row): Berchild, J.; Bloom, K.; Gugisberg, P., and Kohut, D. Primary Researchers (front row left to right: Sims, J., and Giordano, J.). (295.2Kb)
UW-Eau Claire News Release (1993, May 3). News Bureau. "Ten UW-Eau Claire Students Receive Awards for Research Posters April 28." (143.7Kb)
UW-Eau Claire Research Day Poster Session
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The purpose of this research study was to assess the amount of front-page newspaper coverage allotted to “character/competence/image” issues versus “platform/political” issues in the 1992 presidential campaign. Using the methodology of textual analysis with the approach of content analysis, researchers coded the front page of the following five newspapers between August 1 and November 3, 1992: The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The Milwaukee Journal, and Minneapolis Star Tribune. Researchers coded coverage of President George Bush, Vice-President Dan Quayle, Governor Bill Clinton, and Senator Al Gore. A content analysis of the articles was conducted using headline word cues to determine article eligibility; standardized coding sheets were designed and used for category classification. Descriptive statistics were performed to analyze the data. Results of the study indicated that of the 555 articles coded by the researchers, “character/competence/images” issues accounted for either a majority or a plurality of front-page coverage for four of the five newspapers during the coding period. Analysis of the summarized data also revealed that all five newspapers featured more coverage of “character/competence/image” issues than “platform/political” issues during the final month and days before the election. By providing insight into the types of issues that compromised the agenda set by the media, and by presenting evidence suggesting a strong historical trend of such issue coverage, the links between issue coverage, the process of opinion formation, and democratic decision-making in society can be better understood.
1992 presidential campaign
In the first phase of this study, coding was performed by 24 students in an undergraduate Communication research methods course at a mid-western university. Before the course finished, the primary researchers notified students they could apply to participate in the university’s first Research Day Poster Session. Four students from the course were selected to participate: Berchild, J; Bloom, K.; Guigisberg, P.; and Kohut, D. The four students assisted the primary researchers in summarizing the data; in addition, the students prepared the Research Day Poster, which was presented on April 28,1993 at the UW-Eau Claire Student Research Day Poster Session. The poster was honored with the Undergraduate Second Place Award. A paper based on the research was submitted by primary researchers (Sims, J. and Giordano, J.) to the Speech Communication Association and selected for presentation at the Political Communication Poster Session: “The 1992 Presidential Campaign" at the annual meeting of the Speech Communication Association. Miami, FL, November 18 - 21. 1993. Sims, J. and Giordano, J. (1993, November 19). Newspaper coverage of the 1992 presidential campaign: A content analysis of character/competence/image issues versus platform/political issues. ERIC Number: ED385883. In 1994, a paper based on the research also was submitted for publication by primary researchers (Sims, J. and Giordano, J.); it was accepted for publication in the peer reviewed Journal of Communication Studies. Sims, J.R. & Giordano, J. (1994). Newspaper coverage of the 1992 presidential campaign. Journal of Communication Studies, 12 (2), 77-94.
Sims, J., Giordano, J., Berchild, J., Bloom, K., Gugisberg, P., and Kohut, D. (1993). Newspaper coverage of the 1992 presidential campaign: A content analysis of character/competence/image issues versus platform/political issues. Poster presented at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Student Research Day Poster Session, April 28, 1993. Undergraduate 2nd Place Award.