Rise and Shine on Democrats
How the ABC, CBS and NBC Morning Shows Are Promoting
On the Road to the White House
Full Report |
As the 2008 presidential campaign season gets
underway, wide-open primary races in both the Republican and Democratic parties
are competing for the media’s attention. So are the broadcast networks covering
both sides equally, or are they tilting the campaign playing field in favor of
liberal Democratic candidates?
To find out, Media Research Center analysts
reviewed all 517 campaign segments on ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’s
The Early Show and NBC’s Today from January 1 through July 31.
Those three broadcast morning shows draw nine times the audience of their cable
news competitors, and are geared toward everyday voters, not political junkies.
These programs are therefore a prime battleground in each campaign’s quest for
positive media attention.
The results are astonishing: Not only are
the network morning shows overwhelmingly focused on Democrats, they are actively
promoting the Democrats’ liberal agenda.
Among the major findings:
- The networks offered nearly twice as
much coverage of the Democrats. More than half of all campaign segments (284,
or 55%) focused on the Democratic contest, compared with just 152 (29%)
devoted to the Republicans. The remaining stories either offered roughly equal
discussion of both parties or did not focus on the major parties.
- All three Democratic frontrunners
received more attention than any of the top Republican candidates, with New
York Senator Hillary Clinton receiving the most coverage of all.
- Undeclared liberal candidates such
as former Vice President Al Gore and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg
received more network TV attention than many of the declared Republican
- The network morning shows doled out
nearly three times as much airtime (4 hours, 35 minutes) to interviews with
the various Democratic campaigns. In contrast, the Republicans received just 1
hour and 44 minutes of interview airtime.
- In their interviews with the
candidates, the network hosts emphasized a liberal agenda. Of the substantive
questions that could be categorized as reflecting a political agenda, more
than two-thirds (69%) of the questions to Democrats reflected a liberal
premise, and more than four-fifths (82%) of the questions to Republicans came
from the same perspective.
- The top Democratic candidates
received much more favorable coverage than their GOP counterparts, with
Senator Clinton cast as "unbeatable" and Illinois Senator Barack Obama tagged
as a "rock star." The most prominent Republican, Arizona Senator John McCain,
was portrayed as a loser because of his support for staying the course in
- Not once did network reporters
describe Senator Clinton and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards as
"liberal," while ABC only once labeled Obama as "liberal." Yet the networks
showed no hesitation in attaching the "liberal" label to Republican
frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, who was so branded 12 times.
These early returns suggest that ABC, CBS and
NBC are skewing their news in ways that will benefit the Democratic candidates
in 2008. The broadcast networks have a responsibility to cover both parties in a
fair and even-handed manner — not for the sake of the candidates, but for the
voters. That means giving viewers a chance to hear from all of the major
candidates in interviews, asking them similar questions, and balancing the
day-to-day news coverage to keep both Democratic and Republican primary voters