Only half see press as fair to Bush

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About 50 percent of Americans say the Bush administration is being treated fairly by the press, the lowest number since President Bush was elected, and an increasing percentage say the press is too critical of the president, according to the Pew Research Center.

“There has been a notable rise over the past two years in the percentage who say the press is too critical of the Bush administration,” the survey released Tuesday stated.

Many stories that appear to methodically build a case against Mr. Bush might not resonate with readers and viewers.

“Iraq, Katrina, CIA leak, Harriet Miers. Things couldn’t get any worse for Bush. But they just did,” noted the Associated Press yesterday in an account of the Virginia governor’s race, won by Democrat Timothy M. Kaine.

“Dark days: Singed by the special prosecutor and rattled by the Harriet Miers mess, Team Bush is in turmoil,” Newsweek stated this week.

Only 34 percent of the respondents in the Pew survey deemed White House press coverage “about right,” down from 48 percent in a similar survey taken in 2003.

Among Republican respondents, 25 percent said the press is fair to Mr. Bush, down from 50 percent two years ago. Democrats have noticed press vitriol to a point — 68 percent think the president is getting a fair shake — down from 71 percent.

Although the public may be increasingly leery of White House coverage, Americans still prefer their press in a watchdog role. The survey also found that six out of 10 think press criticism of political leaders helps keep them on track.

In the meantime, other research confirms a press vendetta against the Bush administration long before laundry lists of troubles appeared.

“No second-term media honeymoon for Bush,” announced the District-based Center for Media and Public Affairs in mid-July.

Their analysis of 250 print and broadcast stories about the president in his first 100 days of office this year found that 67 percent of them criticized Mr. Bush.

At the same time, coverage of Mr. Bush was declining — down 60 percent from the amount he received during the first 100 days of office in 2001, when the stories numbered 619.

The Pew survey of 1,201 adults was taken Nov. 3 to 6, with a margin of error of four points. The poll also addressed Mr. Bush’s favorability numbers, the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. and other topics. The complete findings can be viewed online at http://people-press.org.

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