Cable News, Public Opinion, and the 2004 Party Conventions

By Morris, Jonathan S.; Francia, Peter L. | Political Research Quarterly, December 2010 | Go to article overview

Cable News, Public Opinion, and the 2004 Party Conventions


Morris, Jonathan S., Francia, Peter L., Political Research Quarterly


Abstract

In this study, the authors test for the presence of bias during Fox News and CNN's coverage of the 2004 national party conventions. The content analysis demonstrates that Fox News's coverage was more favorable to the Republican Party than it was to the Democratic Party, while CNN's coverage was more impartial. The authors also use panel data from the National Annenberg Election Survey to show how opinion change toward the 2004 presidential candidates was associated with exposure to cable television coverage of the national party conventions. These findings highlight the evolving role of the cable news media in presidential campaigns and elections.

Keywords

cable news, media bias, public opinion, party conventions

Media bias in the news has been a controversial subject for decades. While claims of a liberal bias are most pervasive (see e.g., Bozell 2004; Groseclose and Milyo 2005; Lichter and Noyes 1995; Lowry and Shidler 1995; Maurer 1999), there have been competing accusations of conservative media bias as well (see e.g., Alterman 2004; Bagdikian 2004; Brock 2004; Kuklinski and Sigelman 1992; Scheuer 2001). National candidates, party leaders, and other political elites complain frequently that the media treat them unfairly. During the 2004 presidential campaign, for example, Republican officials pointed to Dan Rather's inaccurate story about President George W. Bush's National Guard service as confirmation of the media's liberal bias (see e.g., Podhoretz 2004). Liberals in turn issued their own objections. In one instance, Democratic lawmakers called on the Federal Communications Commission to investigate Sinclair Broadcasting's decision to air an anti- Kerry documentary, "Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal" (see e.g., McConnell and Higgins 2004).

Charges of media bias now extend to cable news, which has become an increasingly popular news source (Barkin 2003; Farnsworth and Lichter 2003; Salwen, Garrison, and Driscoll 2005). As of 2008, 39 percent of the public claimed that they watch CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, or CNBC on a regular basis compared to 29 percent who tune to one of the major broadcast networks (Pew Research Center 2008). The two top-rated cable news networks, Fox News and CNN, have been the frequent targets of bias claims. On one hand, liberals routinely note that the owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch, holds politically conservative views and that Roger Ailes, a former Republican operative, is the president of Fox News (Jamieson and Cappella 2008; Kitty 2005). On the other hand, conservatives note that well-known liberal Ted Turner founded CNN. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay even dubbed CNN the "communist news network" for its perceived left-wing bias (see e.g., Alterman 2001).

However, it remains unclear whether these perceptions of media bias comport with reality, especially when some scholarship suggests that there is no convincing evidence of media bias in either direction (D'Alessio and Allen 2000; Hofstetter 1976; Niven 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003). Although there is extensive research on bias in the traditional media, this study adds to the literature by making cable news a primary focus of investigation. It tests for (1) evidence of bias in cable news coverage of politics and (2) possible effects of that bias.

This study begins with a content analysis of Fox News and CNN's coverage of the 2004 national party conventions. We test for bias within the context of the party conventions for multiple reasons. First, cable news's role in covering the party conventions has become significant (Morris and Francia 2007; Panagopoulos 2007; Pomper 2007). The three cable networks, Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC, combined to draw 8.55 million viewers for the final night of the Republican convention and 6.8 million viewers for their final night of the Democratic convention in 2004 (Project for Excellence in Journalism 2005). Second, viewers of the party conventions were persuadable. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Cable News, Public Opinion, and the 2004 Party Conventions
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.