Media Bias in the Election of 2008

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Connie Zhang
Media Bias Against Hilary Clinton in the Election of 2008
The election of 2008 was monumental in many respects, the most significant being the fact that there was a chance that the first woman or African American would become president of the United States. After Obama won the nomination, claims that the media had been negative and unfair to Clinton were examined. In earlier studies conducted by D’Alessio and Allen, it was concluded there were no significant biases in most forms of media. However, from the focus of her marriage to the questioning of her social conduct, Clinton was definitely treated differently than Obama was. It is very evident that there was, in fact, negative bias towards Clinton, although it was not as numerous and severe as it seemed to be due to historical, situational, and personal matters. Using meta-analysis, a method that allows for the combination of many studies from relatively few media outlets, D’Alessio and Allen revealed no significant net amount of gatekeeping bias and no significant coverage bias. However, statement bias found in newsmagazines was pro-republican, and those found on TV were pro-democrat. The key here is that the “net” amount of gatekeeping bias was equal to zero. What this meant was that the number of conservatively biased forms of media was equal to the number of liberally biased forms of media. If someone only read a republican-favoring newspaper, then individually, he would be experiencing media biases which would impact his voting choices despite the fact that “net” amount of gatekeeping biases was equal to zero. Another important fact demonstrated in this study is that Americans are increasingly relying on TV for campaign information, so they are increasingly exposed to liberal biases, further affecting their political choices. Although D’Alessio and Mike Allen are certainly correct in their claim that the identities of the presidential candidates changed many times, biases most definitely existed in the election of 2008. Using a positive versus negative coverage analysis, Moldovan found substantial evidence that Clinton received less coverage than Obama did. Historically, this trend has been recorded, and in 2008, it held true even when the female candidate, Clinton, was a front runner. Six top newspapers ran 59 stories with Obama being mentioned in the headline, while only 36 mentioned Clinton. Between January 2007 and June 2008, 343 articles were written about Obama, while only 293 were focused on Clinton. In Time magazine, 2 covers featured Clinton, 2 covers featured both Clinton and Obama, and a whopping 25 covers featured Obama only. Clearly, there is a bias favoring Obama in the case of agenda setting. Additionally, Moldovan found that coverage of Clinton was more negatively framed than Obama’s was, in both specific cases and in general. When Clinton cried after winning the New Hampshire primaries, there was plenty of coverage deeming her a phony trying to rally emotional support as a woman, whereas her victory was extremely likely due to her administration’s superior organization in that state. In contrast, Obama’s condescending “You’re likeable enough, Hillary”, remark, received substantially less time and focus. Another example where treatment of Obama was not was not as harsh or prolonged as it could have been was in regards to Michelle Obama’s remark about being proud of her country “for the first time in her life”. Furthermore, the treatment towards Obama’s connections to anti-American individuals, such as his former reverend Jeremiah Wright, was softer in comparison to criticism of Clinton’s fashion, lack of womanly characteristics, and marriage. Overall, Clinton’s coverage was more negative than Obama’s, from the amount the media covered her weaknesses to the way it framed them. But all the biases claimed to have existed may not really have been actual biases, as Moldovan further explains. Some may have only been believed to been there...
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