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The role of religion and the media in the 2008 election essay

These variables operate according to the same measurement principles; however, the more detailed categories developed for analysis in 2008 were collapsed for this study to match the broader filter of the 2007 variables. But when the tactical stories are eliminated, the study finds that religion played a fairly significant role in the coverage. The 16-month time period studied breaks down logically into two distinct phases: In 2008, as primary voting began in earnest, coverage of the horse race and political processes decreased somewhat, and religion coverage dropped as well.

Race and gender issues, on the other hand, received a greater amount of press attention in 2008. As Obama and Sen. At several different points during the primary season, faith and religion surfaced as potential areas for further press inquiry, but in most cases, the media, whether shy to tackle such issues or simply more drawn to the daily political maneuverings inside the campaigns, focused its lens elsewhere.

Differences by Type of Media When looking at the entire 2007-2008 period of campaign coverage, no single media sector stands out for devoting more coverage to religion and the campaign than any other.

The only conclusive takeaway when looking at the breakdown by industry is that all media sectors consistently focused less on the role of religion than on the horse race aspects of the campaign. Barack Obama poses with his pastor, the Rev.

Young Voters in the 2008 Election

Jeremiah Wright, in Chicago on March 10, 2005. Obama called the 8,000-member Trinity United Church of Christ, where Wright served as pastor, his spiritual home for nearly two decades. An influence early on in the campaign, Wright would become a major part of the media story line, or press narrative, for Obama. On The role of religion and the media in the 2008 election essay 30, 2008, national newspapers around the country ran front-page headlines pairing the two men: In 1987, a PBS Frontline documentary on the state of the black church contained an interview with Wright as one of its authoritative spokespersons.

When Obama launched his campaign for the presidency in February 2007, he began to distance himself from Wright. Still, the Wright story continued to lie dormant for the rest of the year. But even in Chicago, the focus was more on race and politics than on religion. For example, a Feb. Suddenly, the candidate found himself the target of questions about his faith background and also found himself sharing the stage with his former pastor.

A close look at the coverage, though, suggests that the press was still shy about tackling questions of faith and putting them in the front of the campaign coverage. Although Obama received the majority of the religion-related coverage in the first part of 2008, the bulk of his overall press coverage was not about religion.

This was more than any other candidate still in the race but just a sliver of what the media covered overall. Part of this had to do with the sheer volume of press attention Obama was getting. But the amount of coverage also had to do with the more complicated nature of the Wright story. Statements made by Wright spurred questions not only about religion but also about patriotism, race relations and civil rights in the United States. In his March 18 address in Philadelphia, Obama talked about his own spirituality but focused more heavily on the black church — its traditions, conventions and ways of communicating.

The press covered the speech extensively. The media framed its analysis of the speech as essentially about race — even more than about political strategy. For about every 50 news stories that primarily focused on race, only one took a distinctively religious angle.

  • Young voters differ most from older voters in their liberal views on the proper scope of government;
  • In 1987, a PBS Frontline documentary on the state of the black church contained an interview with Wright as one of its authoritative spokespersons;
  • The internet made a difference in helping campaigns decide who to contact, what to say, when to say it, and, crucially, who to send to say it.

Press reaction among the pundits divided generally along ideological lines. It is patently obvious Barack Obama sought to excuse that today in ways that I found a little bit troubling. Politically, the speech seemed to help Obama survive the initial controversy. Media coverage of the Wright story, however, was far from over. These appearances provoked a stronger response from Obama and resulted in 24-hour cable TV rehashing the drama once again.

Several weeks later, a visiting preacher, the Rev. John Hagee, a Texas televangelist who endorsed McCain. McCain and Hagee later parted ways after controversial remarks by Hagee surfaced.

Obama is not the only candidate for whom faith and politics may be a factor in the November election. As John McCain looks to rally the GOP base around his candidacy, questions loom not only about the perception about how conservative he is but also his appeal to evangelicals — a crucial voting bloc in recent elections.

Even in 2008, as he became the front-runner, that portion remained at roughly the same level.

  • This variable was added in July 2007;
  • McCain and Hagee later parted ways after controversial remarks by Hagee surfaced;
  • By Aaron Smith More than half the adult population were online political users in the 2008 election.

McCain has a rocky history with evangelicals. Many credit this moment as a turning point in his ultimately unsuccessful campaign that year.

  1. And online political users in all age groups are equally likely to share or forward interesting political nuggets to others.
  2. A consensus emerges on whether the incumbent deserves to be kept on, and the sitting president is either dismissed or, more often, reelected—and by a substantial margin.
  3. Sharing or receiving campaign information using specific tools, such as email, instant messaging, text messages or Twitter.
  4. By August 2004, however, the Kerry campaign had learned another advantage of online campaigning. Under its restrictions, field operatives working for one of the 527 groups could neither coordinate with the Kerry campaign, nor advocate voting for him.
  5. As Obama and Sen.

Not surprisingly, relations with that critical base of the GOP were a big question for McCain heading into the current campaign.

It was a criticism that stuck and proved difficult for the McCain campaign to put down. But little of this coverage focused on the part of the conservative base with which McCain may have the most problems — the religious right. In fact, the press focused more attention on the leaders of the evangelical movement themselves, rather than on McCain.

During the pre-primary period of 2007, religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, North Carolina preacher Tadd Grandstaff and the Southern Baptist Convention together were just as likely to be featured in a religion story as McCain. Like Obama, McCain later ran into trouble with the media over his relationship with a controversial religious figure.

Hagee, an influential figure in the conservative Christian community, is also known for past comments that have offended Catholics, gays and other groups. On May 22, 2008, McCain officially renounced the endorsement of the minister. While the story bears some resemblance to the Wright controversy, the Hagee endorsement drew little attention compared with the Wright controversy. In the first four months of 2008, Hagee was a lead newsmaker in only one campaign story among all that were studied including religion-focused itemswhereas Wright was a lead newsmaker in one out of every 50 campaign stories — 181 in total.

It is impossible to definitively say why media coverage of McCain paid relatively little attention to the issue of religion. It might be related to the impression that the conservative religious base of the Republican Party has lost some political influence see May 2007 news stories about the Rev. One major religion narrative occupied most of the space in the media narrative during the primary season: Here, there may be some further hints as to the way the press may approach faith in the general election coverage.

The paper cited poll numbers suggesting a large number of Americans would never vote for a Mormon. Would you vote for a divorced actor as president? But then they saw Ronald Reagan. They heard his vision. They heard his experience. No other candidate even came close to receiving the same amount of attention to their faith that year.

Journalists often expressed sympathy for a candidate subject to anti-Mormon sentiment while simultaneously fueling the fire by suggesting his religion could be an impediment to his electability. For instance, on the Feb. The well-known activist the Rev. Neither Obama nor McCain were the subject of religion reporting at all that month.

The Grand Rapids Press, on Dec. But in the entire speech, Romney explicitly referenced his Mormon faith by name only once. Media coverage of the speech was brief but intense and was all but over in a day.

Marc Caputo of The Miami Herald praised the speech in an analysis on the same day: In the weeks that followed, some papers, especially in their op-ed pages, used a comparison with John F.

United States Presidential Election of 2008

Republicans and GOP-leaning independents, with little difference between evangelicals and non-evangelicals, were a bit more positive: According to a Gallup poll conducted on Dec. A later Gallup surveyconducted Feb. Nearly one-in-four said they would not vote for a Mormon. Twenty-eight days following the speech, Romney lost the first primary battle to Huckabee, and on Feb. Other Candidates Hillary Clinton There was also some coverage of the religion angle when it came to the other candidates in the 2008 presidential race.

As with Obama, McCain and Romney, religion coverage of the other candidates during the primaries was largely event-focused and faded soon after the event subsided. The Democratic candidates had a major opportunity to discuss their views on faith in June 2007, when CNN sponsored a debate about faith.

The forum gave front-runners Obama, Clinton and John Edwards the chance to discuss faith with a public and journalistic audience that had maintained some skepticism about the prospect of devout Democrats. God got me through marital strife. Mike Huckabee Ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee had some of the strongest conservative views of any candidate and was often portrayed in the media as everything evangelicals were looking for in a presidential candidate.

He was an early advocate of and participant in the covenant marriage movementa proponent of teaching intelligent design in public schools and an opponent of legalized abortion. However, there may be more to the story than that.

Commentary on the impact of the internet on the 2004 election

For example, a Jan. The NCI is designed to provide news consumers, journalists and researchers with hard data about what stories and topics the media are covering, the trajectories of major stories and differences among news platforms.

It examines the news agenda of 48 different outlets in five media sectors, including newspapers, online, network TV, cable TV and radio. The findings are released in a weekly NCI report.

The complete methodology of the weekly NCI can be found at http: Main Universe of Stories: This report is based on NCI coding from Jan.

  1. According to a Gallup poll conducted on Dec. This is where the Republicans shone.
  2. The complete methodology of the weekly NCI can be found at http.
  3. And it can count on the ensuing week to bring fresh news and new goals to set. However, the biggest change between elections occurred among the young.
  4. The internet makes this a matter of software configuration as well as political management. There was no extra sample of cell-phone users, who tend to be younger and slightly more likely to be internet users.
  5. Both Democrats and Republicans are now more likely to gravitate towards online sites with an explicitly partisan slant than they were in 2004. For instance, on the Feb.

All stories that had been already coded as being about religion and the campaign were isolated and further analyzed to locate the role of religion in campaign coverage in 16 months of news — encompassing the majority of the pre-primary and official primary seasons.

This resulted in a total of 13,386 stories focused on the presidential campaign: Big stories are particular events in the news that extend over a period of time and are featured in multiple news outlets during the time period under study.

For the 16-month time period studied, this resulted in 13,386 stories. Then, to narrow that universe down to stories specifically addressing religion and the campaign, the study took four additional steps.

The first three steps involved different ways of identifying religion in the news in the weekly coding system. And the fourth step merged those stories into one set, eliminating any duplicates.