- The Washington Times - Monday, September 6, 2004

The research patterns of the nation’s journalists reveal much about presidential candidates, at least according to LexisNexis, the news and information database service that is a primary press resource.

The New York-based company has dug deep into its records to find that in a recent three-month period, journalists looked for information related to President Bush and Sen. John Kerry a whopping 540,458 times — or more than 6,000 times a day.

The Top 10 searched words associated with Mr. Bush were: “Iraq,” followed by “campaign,” “Cheney,” “poll,” “Gore,” “war,” “international,” “Clinton,” “national” and “Laura.”

The top search words associated with Mr. Kerry were: “Edwards,” followed by “international,” “health,” “Teresa,” “service,” “mother,” “cookie,” “brothers,” “commercial” and “industries.”

But Mr. Bush might emerge the victor in the race, if previous research patterns hold true.

The president’s name was searched 54,836 times, while Mr. Kerry’s came up only 36,951 times in the April 1 to July 1 study period.

The analysis compared those findings to a corresponding three-month period in the last presidential election to find that Mr. Bush’s name came up in 33,585 searches while Al Gore’s name was pulled up 31,553 times.

“It’s a stretch to make any comparison of the two elections,” said LexisNexis spokesman Steve Edwards, who reasoned that because there was no incumbent in the 2000 race, the two candidates stood the same chance of being a search topic.

“It’s safe to say that the person whose name was searched the most during that time frame in 2000 by journalists ultimately became the president of the United States,” Mr. Edwards said.

The analysis found that the word “lies” was searched with Mr. Gore’s name 26 times four years ago — but only 22 times combined with both Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush this year.

The records found that journalists made a “Bush, Iraq” search 3,013 times while “Kerry, Iraq” was searched 847 times. But “Vietnam” was searched 739 times in conjunction with Mr. Kerry and only 123 times for Mr. Bush.

The combination “Bush, Kerry” was searched 4,593 times. The combination “Kerry, Bush” was sought 4,581 times.

The real quirks lie in the small numbers, however.

For inexplicable reasons, journalists made 916 searches about Mr. Kerry and food, connecting his name with words like “pasta,” “cracker” and “bread.” Another 935 searches were made based on “cookie” as well.

Journalists appeared more fascinated with Teresa Heinz Kerry than first lady Laura Bush in the meantime — 1,140 searches for Mrs. Kerry and 846 for Mrs. Bush.

The analysis also found that 1,171 searches were made on Mr. Bush and “war,” compared to 454 for Mr. Kerry and “war.” Under “terrorism,” the numbers were 462 to 114, respectively. Under “service,” it was 395 to 1,130, and “taxes” 651 to 348.

Under “heart,” there were no searches linking the word with Mr. Bush, and 150 linking it to Mr. Kerry, presumably in association with the dispute over the Massachusetts senator’s Purple Heart medals.

What does it all mean? LexisNexis chooses to remain neutral.

Although the analysis doesn’t provide a direct correlation between press research and what drives election debate, “It provides excellent anecdotal information,” Mr. Edwards said.

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