Less than 5% of Election Coverage Focuses on the Issues


How bad have things gotten when it comes to substantive coverage and discussion of the presidential election? Pew finds that at the end of August, just 2% of total news coverage focused on issues rather than the day-to-day strategies and conflicts between the two candidates (graph above).

Scholars have long recognized this trend in journalism towards a singular focus on the horse race to the exclusion of a substantive focus on the issues. In a forthcoming entry in the Encyclopedia of Survey Research I review this research and discuss its links to the growing over-abundance of daily tracking polls.

You can read the final draft of this forthcoming article in a past blog post.

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Interesting, given that just yesterday I heard an NPR interview with Obama's communications manager. NPR wondered if given the recent attacks by Palin and McCain, maybe it's time for Obama to "strike back". The manager's response was "We think this election is about the issues and that's what we'll win on".

Exactly who is "out of touch"?

Saying "it's about the issues" isn't discussing the issues. It's just a covert way of saying that the other side is negative and focussed on personality.

If the manager has responded with "Let me tell you about Senator Obama's energy policy", _that_ would have been "about the issues".