The campaign of Republican John McCain has just released two web videos which highlight what the campaign feels is a national media bias in favor of Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election. It is asking people to vote for their favorite video.
This McCain campaign video release contest comes at the end of a week in which hundreds of members of the national media followed Barack Obama throughout the Middle East, Central Asia, and Europe on his fact finding mission. However, the same press coverage was not to be found when McCain took a similar trip a few months ago or when he more recently visited Colombia and Mexico.
Meanwhile the New York Times featured an editorial from Barack Obama and then refused to publish one written by John McCain. The McCain article was to appear on the paper’s op-ed page and was rejected because it was supposedly incompatible with the article from Sen. Barack Obama that the Times previously had published.
There are three questions about the news media that should be considered in this Presidential campaign. Is the national media as biased in election 2008 as it appeared to be in 2004?. Does John McCain make a point with his recent web video on media bias? Does the American public perceive media bias in favor of Barack Obama in election 2008?
To answer the last question first, the American public does detect media bias. In fact, according to a recent poll (Rasmussen), nearly half of Americans believe that the media is biased toward the candidacy of Democrat Barack Obama. In the same poll only 14% believe that the media favors Republican candidate John McCain.
Certainly, political partisans in both major parties often feel that their candidate is the victim of unfavorable media coverage. So, for a more objective view of media reporting in election 2008, consider only what the independent voter is saying in that same public opinion poll. Indeed, nearly 50% of these unaffiliated voters see a media with a pro-Obama bias while just 21% see unbiased coverage. Only 12% of those not connected with either major party believe the media is trying to help Republican John McCain.
Is this perception of media bias toward Obama by the public based in news reporting reality? To answer this question, let’s consider the results of the study of the media in election 2008 from Jounalism.org. The organization’s Project for Excellence in Journalism evaluates more than 300 political stories each week in newspapers, magazines, and television in order to measure whether each candidate is talked about in more than 25% of the stories.
This excerpt from their ongoing election media study describes the national media’s election coverage to date; ..”It was the sixth straight week since the general election began in which Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, enjoyed a distinct advantage in the race for exposure over the presumptive Republican nominee, John McCain. Last week, Obama was a significant presence in 83% of campaign stories studied, vs. McCain in 52%. That advantage for Obama is only slightly higher than what he has enjoyed throughout this early phase of the general election period.
In the six weeks since Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign and the general election phase began, Obama has been a significant factor in 78% of the stories and McCain in 51%. The closest they have come in coverage was the week of June 30 through July 6, when Obama enjoyed an 11 percentage point advantage (73% of stories about Obama vs. 62% for McCain).”
Certainly, an advantage of nearly 8-5 in media exposure is a significant benefit for any politician running for the highest office in the land. The extent of Obama’s favorable exposure from the national media indicates a distinct Democratic bias so far in this election campaign.
Consider that media bias was also perceived by the voting public just prior to the actual voting in the Presidential election of 2004. In a Fabrizio, McLaughlin, and Associates election night survey of 1,000 voters in twelve battleground states, 46% thought the media’s coverage of that election campaign was biased. 32% thought the Democrats were favored by the media while just 14% felt the same way about the media and the GOP.
Of course, in the last election, a national network and prominent news anchor became the news for promoting and defending forged documents in an attempt to influence the election for the benefit of the Democratic Party nominee. Dan Rather and CBS will continue discussions about that dubious matter in their civil litigation currently scheduled for this fall.
Indeed, a lack of national media objectivity in election 2008 may well be a replay of the Presidential campaign of 2004. It looks like John McCain may have a valid point when he highlights media bias in favor of his opponent. However, based on the media’s recent history of political election coverage and an attractive and articulate Democratic candidate, his campaign should certainly not be very surprised.