Monday, November 1, 2004

Sen. John Kerry has gotten the white-glove treatment from the press, garnering more praise from journalists than any other presidential candidate in the last quarter-century, according to a new analysis of almost 500 news stories released today by the Center for Media and Public Affairs.

“It’s not just that John Kerry has gotten better press than President Bush before this election, he’s gotten better press than anyone else since 1980. That’s significant,” said Bob Lichter, director of the D.C.-based nonpartisan research group.

“Kerry also got better press than anyone else in the days before the primaries as well,” Mr. Lichter added.

In October alone, Mr. Kerry had a “record-breaking 77 percent positive press evaluations,” compared with 34 percent positive for Mr. Bush, the study states.

Unprecedented, untrammeled accolades for Mr. Kerry were more than debate-related bounce, however. Since Labor Day, he also had a total of 58 percent positive stories, with just 36 percent for Mr. Bush.

Journalists seem particularly transfixed by the Democratic challenger this year: In the 2000 election, Mr. Bush and challenger Al Gore got equally lousy press, with each receiving evaluations that were about 2-to-1 negative.

But Mr. Bush didn’t get the absolute worst press on record. With only 9 percent positive stories in 1984, President Reagan got the most negative treatment by news outlets on record, the study says.

Until this year, the record-holder for journalistic praise went to Walter Mondale, who accrued 56 percent positive press evaluations, also in 1984.

“Democrats get the breaks,” the study states. “In the past seven elections since 1980, the Democratic candidate has gotten significantly better press in four of those elections.”

Republicans fared better in the press than Democrats in only one race — George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis in 1988. The two parties shared an equal amount of press condemnation in two elections — Bush vs. Gore in 2000 and Jimmy Carter vs. Mr. Reagan in 1980.

The study examined 491 press evaluations of the two candidates in print and broadcast reports that appeared between Oct. 1 and Oct. 22. The group compared them with news stories in comparable time periods since 1980, gleaned from their own records and those maintained by George Washington University.

Others have similar findings. A separate study of more than 800 news stories released by the District-based Project for Excellence in Journalism last week found that Mr. Bush has been “battered” by the press this October, with 59 percent of his evaluations “clearly negative in nature.”

Contact Jennifer Harper at or 202/636-3085.

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