A Content Analysis of New Hampshire Primary Coverage, 1952-1996
alan r. freitag, doctoral student
ohio university's scripps school of journalism
6 Ball drive
athens, oh 45701
e-mail: [log in to unmask]
A Content Analysis of New Hampshire Primary Coverage, 1952-1996
"Since the late 1940s," James Davis observed, "The (major political) party
leaders have stood by helplessly as they have seen their power to select
presidential candidates gradually whittled away by the rising number of
candidates who march off with the nomination by first winning a popular mandate
in the primaries."1 Through the mid-1950s major party chairmen were powerful
figures, heading relatively cohesive party structures, exerting extraordinary
influence in particular through the presidential nomination process. They were
newsmakers, instantly recognizable as a result of considerable media attention.
Theirs were household names.
But that power and recognition had been eroding since World War II, and we can
only speculate on the causes, it being difficult to separate antecedents from
results. The parties remained intact, but potential candidates who might have
felt excluded were looking for other means by which to demonstrate their
electability. It seems unsurprising now, therefore, that one of the coincident
phenomena to emerge in the 1950s was the increasing significance of state
primaries. Such presidential hopefuls as Estes Kefauver and Harold Stassen
found that through the primaries they could bypass party structure, taking their
cases directly to the voting public to establish their popularity in meaningful
quantitative terms -- votes.2 Though the primaries were not yet binding, they
nevertheless carried demonstrable impact.
Also coincident with these changes was the emergence of television. While its
eventual pervasiveness could not have been accurately forecast in the
early-1950s, an indication could be deduced from the impact the introduction of
radio had on the nomination process in the early-1930s. While in 1932 radio
played largely an observer role with the parties and candidates giving it little
attention, by 1936 campaigns and conventions were well on their way toward
constructing frameworks around the medium, for the first time engaging media
specialists to take maximum advantage of this new opportunity. Some argued, in
fact, that delegates to the 1936 conventions were merely there to provide
background noise to a nomination process which was now being carried out via the
It would be fair to consider 1952 a milepost year in the progressive changes
ongoing. It was the first presidential election year when most U.S. households
had access to television, and it marked the first year of what has become
traditionally the nation's lead-off primary -- that of New Hampshire. And for
each quadrennial election since 1952, New Hampshire has taken tremendous pride
in conducting the nation's first primary. It was a pivotal year in a period
when the presidential nomination process was moving from smoke-filled rooms
behind locked doors into a genuine, voter-driven process. Now every four years
this state, with a population of just over a million, becomes the fulcrum of
American political activity and the focus of media coverage of the presidential
By state law, New Hampshire holds its primary election on the first Tuesday in
March or at least one week prior to any other state conducting a similar
election, whichever is sooner. Candidates, parties and pundits recognize the
impact of the New Hampshire primary and devote extraordinary time, talent and
treasure to achieving at least a respectable showing. Key, one can assume, is
capturing voters' support through effective, positive and extensive media
coverage, both locally to gain support of New Hampshire voters, and nationally
to position themselves for subsequent primaries and establish themselves as
electable in November.
But what is the nature of that coverage? Is it substantive, or is it
superficial? Does it focus on what has been called the "horse race" aspect,
addressing only popularity polls, campaign tactics, the importance of winning?
Does it educate the voter or help the voter make a rational decision by
addressing issues, positions, experience, character? Past studies of political
coverage would strongly suggest an emphasis on the superficial.
This longitudinal study examined the thematic content of selected print
coverage of the New Hampshire primary since its inception in 1952 through the
1996 state campaign. An exploratory study, it asked specifically whether print
coverage of election themes has evolved under the gradual shift away from
nomination by party power brokers to election through the primary nomination
process. By analyzing comparable samples from each of those 12 New Hampshire
primaries, it was possible to discern characteristics of thematic coverage
during the period.
A study of this nature is important if it aids understanding of the nomination
process. Early primaries have demonstrated their importance in terms both of
developing momentum and winnowing the field.4 Coverage of those events, and in
particular of the New Hampshire primary, undoubtedly impacts to no small extent
the process of selecting the nation's presidents. That's true at several
levels. For example, low voter turnout in the United States is a frequent
lament, supported by data revealing that roughly half of eligible voters
participate in national elections, often less. If media coverage of the
campaign is failing to satisfy the public's needs and gratifications with regard
to the issues, it's conceivable that low voter turnout is at least partially the
result of frustration among many who feel ill prepared to make an educated
choice. In addition, if coverage is placing inordinate emphasis on the horse
race dimension, candidates may emerge as dominant who display those qualities
which most successfully feed that dimension. Those qualities might include how
videogenic the candidate is, how well he or she can generate an effective sound
bite, or how much money the candidate brings to the contest -- not qualities
that should determine the leadership of the world's only super power.
Clearly, understanding the nature of campaign coverage is important to
understanding the campaign process. Further, discerning trends in that coverage
will suggest where it may be headed. It's not surprising, then, that so many
studies have been aimed at describing the textures of campaign coverage. In the
next section, we'll look at several seminal studies that provided the foundation
upon which this study was constructed.
McLeod et al5 composed an elegant matrix addressing Gurevitch and Blumler's6
eight functions of political communication in a democratic society; the sixth
function in that matrix concerns facilitating informed political choices by the
public. It's that function this study and others focused on -- whether coverage
enables readers to make those informed choices or whether coverage is skewed
toward the superfluous.
King7 sampled and analyzed 1988 primary campaign coverage in USA Today and The
New York Times, finding an overwhelming predominance of what she called horse
race coverage (88.8% and 73.7% for the two newspapers, respectively), with
campaign issues a distant second (7.5% and 11.2%). Personal qualities of the
candidates (1.6% and 7.5%) and policy issues (2.1% and 7.5%) were even less
Johnson8 reinforced King's findings, but attempted to define thematic content
more finely. He looked at The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, plus
three major commercial television networks, and assigned coverage to thematic
categories including public support, expectations, momentum, organizational and
financial strength, endorsements, delegate count, and campaign performance. He
also looked for variations in coverage as the 1988 primary campaign unfolded.
He found that pre-primary coverage focused on public support; that was gradually
eclipsed by expectations and momentum during mid-campaign, but re-established
prominence during the last primaries. Television and newspapers, Johnson found,
differed principally in that television devoted considerably more time to
polling and endorsement stories, while newspapers gave more attention to
organizational and financial strengths of the candidates.
In another related study, Johnson9 examined newspaper and television coverage
for a portion of the 1988 primary campaign, assessing both tone and amount of
coverage of individual candidates. He found coverage of nominal front-runners
was largely favorable and that tone and amount had a positive impact on future
candidate performance during subsequent primaries, suggesting strongly the
importance of coverage in the primary nomination process.
Russonello and Wolf10 looked at three major dailies -- The New York Times, the
Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Sun-Times to determine the extent of horse race
versus substantive coverage of the 1968 and 1976 presidential campaigns,
hypothesizing that newspaper coverage had become more substantive. Employing
four categories of coverage -- horse race, issues, candidates' personal
qualities, and other, they found a seven-percentage-point increase in the number
of articles addressing issues in 1976 versus 1968 (from 39% to 46%).
Hofstetter and Moore11 hypothesized that mass media coverage of the candidates
influenced major party nomination processes, correlating the amount of coverage
of each candidate with that candidate's standing in the polls. Charting their
results along a timeline, however, they found little or no correlation, but
rather posited that winning primaries contributed more to boosting popularity
than did coverage.
Lichter12 analyzed major television network evening newscast coverage of the
1988 primary race and found horse race coverage to be 2. times more prevalent
than policy issue coverage, but felt policy coverage was adequate. He asserted,
in fact, that if viewers sought more issue-related coverage of the campaign the
MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour would surpass commercial network news in ratings.
Castle's13 study of newspaper coverage of numerous state primaries convincingly
demonstrated the strategic importance of these events in the nomination process.
Patterson14 looked at television coverage of primaries since 1976 and found
"campaign issues" (non-substantive) dominated throughout the period. He
discerned considerable emphasis on candidates' styles, stagecraft, etc., with
little emphasis on substantive issues.
For similar analyses, but with somewhat different results, for non-U.S.
elections, excellent studies are those by Major15 (France), Semetko16 (Great
Britain), and Schulz et al17 (Germany). It's important for U.S. researchers to
be mindful of those and similar references to preclude any predilection to posit
potential political communication theoretical constructs based solely upon
studies of U.S. media and voter behavior.
A substantial study of presidential campaign coverage over time (the premise of
this study) was a quite extensive one conducted by Sigelman and Bullock.18 This
was a comparative content analysis of newspaper coverage of elections of 1888,
1908, 1928, 1948, 1968, and 1988. They looked at front-page election coverage
in five major metropolitan newspapers, finding considerable variability in
thematic trends among them. Overall, however, they found that policy accounted
for roughly one-fourth of all coverage. Further, they found that policy issue
coverage gradually increased from 1888 to 1948, then declined, though 1988
policy issue coverage matched that of 1888. Horse race coverage, they noted,
rose dramatically since 1948 (coincident with the rise of television), but once
again merely returned to levels seen during the "newspaper era" before the
advent of radio.
This is by no means an exhaustive review of salient literature. On the
contrary, there is an extensive body of literature addressing presidential
campaign coverage. Still, there is reason to continue down that path. Few
studies, for example, examine trends over time. The Sigelman and Bullock study
is a notable exception, but even it was limited in scope; it looked at only
front-page coverage and for just six campaigns over a 100-year period. This
study, on the other hand, aimed at providing a clearer, more detailed picture of
an important segment of coverage keyed to one particular primary election.
Many of the studies limited their samples to front-page coverage. This study's
sample revealed that front-page coverage was frequently confined to just a few
days immediately preceding the election and the day following; as a result,
those stories leaned heavily toward the horse race dimension -- especially poll
standings and voting results -- while paying scant attention to substantive
issues. Limiting the sample to front-page stories would therefore risk skewing
results toward the less substantive themes. In their defense, however, it can
be argued that front-page stories are read more often than those on inside
pages, and may exert more influence on potential voters. Nevertheless, there is
a need to examine broader coverage content.
Further, nearly all studies examined coverage of entire presidential campaigns.
This study, on the other hand, focused on just the critical New Hampshire
primary. Broader studies are extremely useful, but they unavoidably reflect an
extremely complex process beset with countless variables in terms of forces
working on the dynamics of the campaign. This study, by limiting its scope to
the New Hampshire primary since its inception, provides a narrower focus and
tracks that focus longitudinally through 12 elections. That is not a criticism
of these previous studies. On the contrary, the works cited have served to
define the field of vision with increasing precision; this study is an attempt
to continue that effort.
The New York Times and the Boston Globe were selected for this study of coverage
of the New Hampshire primary -- the first because of its generally accepted
status as the national newspaper of record and its influential, unofficial role
as agenda setter, and the second both because of its national status of
respectability and its role as the major "local" newspaper for many New
Candidate activity in the state and resulting coverage is at its most frenetic
during the two weeks preceding the primary election. For this reason the
universe for this study included all directly-related coverage in both papers
for that period, including election day and the day following the election: 15
days of coverage for each of the 12 primary elections. Table 1 indicates the
inclusive dates for each of the quadrennial elections covered in this study and
indicates the total number of pertinent articles appearing during the period.
As stated, while many previous studies of election coverage were limited to
front-page articles, this study included coverage on the inside pages. The vast
majority of coverage appeared on inside pages, often in special segments set
aside for campaign coverage within each issue. In fact just 25% of the articles
coded for this study appeared on the front page; often those represented
coverage just one or two days prior to the election and emphasized poll
standings, or the day following the election emphasizing results. Those
front-page articles stressed what is commonly defined as horse race coverage.
In order to reflect broader thematic coverage, if it existed, the universe for
this study included all articles in The New York Times and the Boston Globe
related to the primary. However, commentaries, editorials, news analyses,
letters to the editor, or other opinion pieces were not included; the study
addressed only straight news coverage.
To whittle the sample down to a manageable, yet meaningful size, while creating
comparable sub-samples of both selected newspapers, every third article in The
New York Times universe and every fifth article in the Boston Globe universe
were randomly selected. Random selection was based first on date of each
article, then by prominence of placement within the issue. As a result, the
sample analyzed included 110 New York Times articles and 151 Boston Globe
articles. A more exacting description of this study's sample, since the unit of
analysis is the paragraph, is the resulting sample of 2,393 New York Times
paragraphs and 2,510 Boston Globe paragraphs.
While King and others included all non-issue and non-qualification coverage
under the single rubric "horse race," this study further delineated
sub-categories of coverage within the horse race aegis since it so dominated
coverage in most studies. Johnson employed a suitable model, identifying seven
such sub-categories. However, pretesting using Johnson's categories resulted in
unsatisfactory intercoder reliability of about 60% agreement. As a result, and
after several trials, Johnson's categories were collapsed to:
SCENE SETTING: This included information on New Hampshire or its residents; the
importance/characterization of this primary election (including
candidate/pundit/other quotes on the subject, but in general only -- not the
impact on specific candidates); the mechanics of the primary election; who's in
the race and who's not; background and/or history on the New Hampshire primary
and the nomination process; the weather;, and any other information which put
the election and the process in perspective without reference to specific
candidates; their campaigns; etc.
HORSE RACE: This included forecasts/predictions; expectations (by the
candidates or by others); poll standings; delegate counts; who's ahead; who won;
who lost; impact of the win or loss on individual candidates; victory claims and
concessions of loss.
CAMPAIGNING: This included candidates' schedules and activities; their
organizations (including strengths and weaknesses); candidates' campaign
strategy/tactics/style; ad content; financial strength/weakness of candidates'
campaigns; spending; attack; charge/counter-charge/denial; scandal; pundit or
other expressed support/endorsement of candidates.
ISSUES AND QUALIFICATIONS: Statements defining/identifying campaign issues;
candidates' positions on the issues (expressed by the candidate, supporters,
reporters or others - but not attacks by detractors or other candidates);
candidates' professional/personal/political experience and qualifications; their
Five coders (four mass communication graduate students and one communications
instructor) reviewed an approximately equal number of articles (50-55),
distributed equally across the twelve primary election years, and assigned a
thematic category to each paragraph. They did not code accompanying graphics,
photo captions/cutlines, sub-heads, etc. They did, however, separately
categorize the thematic content of each article's headline.
A copy of the coding sheet is at Appendix 2. Coder reliability based on
percentage of agreement was 89%. While Stempel19 suggests a target reliability
of 90%, he acknowledges that more complex coding procedures may make such a
level unattainable; the complexity of procedures for this study render 89%
reliability well above chance and at a credible level. The level of
significance for this study was set at .05.
Table 2 consolidates all study data generated concerning thematic content of
paragraphs across the entire scope of the sample. In that regard it helps
visually delimit the scope of the study and begins to suggest that campaigning
coverage appears to dominate throughout. The number of paragraphs with
campaigning as the dominant theme far exceeds other themes for both The New York
Times (1,120 of 2,393 or 47%) and the Boston Globe (1,012 of 2,510 or 40%) for
the cumulative period 1952 through 1996. Horse race coverage is a distant
second for both papers: for The New York Times, 462 of 2,393 paragraphs or 19%;
for the Boston Globe, 525 of 2,510 paragraphs or 21%. In fact, data for both
papers reveal the following similar rank pattern for the five categories:
campaigning; horse race; scene setting; issues and qualifications; other. For
the entire 12-campaign period, issues and qualifications accounted for just 296
of 2,393 paragraphs in The New York Times (12%) and 411 of 2,510 paragraphs in
the Boston Globe (16%).
Table 3 breaks out New York Times coverage by theme. The data indicate that
campaigning was the dominant theme for every campaign since 1952 except for 1976
when scene setting and horse race coverage surpassed it. Table 4 graphically
depicts the percentage of paragraphs for a given year which stressed particular
themes, excluding the "Other" category. Campaign-oriented coverage seems to
have been on the rise since 1976, though 1996 marked a downturn. Interestingly,
campaign-oriented coverage in 1996 is well below that of primaries from 1952 to
1964 and 1972. Substantive issue coverage remains near the bottom with notable
exceptions in 1980 (25%), 1988 (18%), and 1992 (14%), though in the latter two
primary elections campaign-oriented coverage so dominated as to group remaining
categories more tightly.
Tables 5 and 6 reveal a similar, but not identical pattern for the Boston Globe.
Campaign-oriented coverage dominated every New Hampshire primary since 1976, and
comprised more than 65% of the coverage in 1968. Horse race coverage dominated
in 1960 (21 of 57 paragraphs or 37%), but otherwise ranked second or third with
a high of 27% in 1976 (100 of 365 paragraphs) and lows of 13% in 1980 (45 of 352
paragraphs) and in 1956 (4 of 31 paragraphs). Substantive issues and
qualifications fluctuated between a high of 36% in 1980 (125 of 352 paragraphs)
and a low of 2% in 1976 (seven of 365 paragraphs), but generally ranked fourth
or fifth of the five thematic categories. Coverage during the most recent
campaign, 1996, was marked by very low issue and qualification content -- 8% (21
of 250 paragraphs), while campaigning coverage was quite high -- 56% (140 of 250
Table 7 depicts overall findings as ordinal rankings by theme by newspaper over
time. While rankings varied between the two from year to year, the cumulative
rankings are identical, as indicated earlier. The New York Times' ordinal
ranking by theme is the more consistent of the two, with campaigning dominating
coverage during 11 of the 12 campaigns, the exception being 1976 when it ranked
third behind scene setting and horse race coverage. Campaign-oriented coverage
in the Boston Globe dominated nine of the 12 campaigns, never appearing lower
than second in rank.
Issue coverage in The New York Times ranked fourth overall, but appeared in that
position in just two of the 12 years (1960 and 1984); during other years it
ranged from second to fifth. New York Times issues and qualifications coverage
ranked second in both the 1988 and 1992 elections, but declined to third in
In Table 8 New York Times results are collapsed into three periods of four
elections each (1952-64; 1968-80; and 1984-96). Doing so helps reveal broader
trends since 1952. For example, horse race coverage rose from 14% during the
first period to 22% during the second period and has remained at roughly that
level. Campaigning-oriented coverage constituted 52% of all coverage for the
first period, dipped to 38 for the second period, but returned to 51% range for
the last period. Issues and qualification coverage has been remarkably steady
at 12-13% for all three periods.
Table 9 presents a similar compression for the Boston Globe. Campaigning here
shows a steady rise across the three periods, from 35%, to 37%, and finally to
45%. Horse race coverage actually declined from 26% during the first period to
19% during the second period and rose slightly to 21% in the last period.
Again, though, issues and qualification coverage held very steady with content
representation of 15%, 16% and 17% for the three periods.
Table 10 combines both newspapers' headlines in a single table, indicating
dominant theme for each across time. Results, though small cell numbers prevent
significant conclusions, nevertheless reinforce findings for paragraph thematic
content. As was the case for paragraph theme dominance, headline themes clearly
stress campaigning as well. Campaign-oriented headlines led all other theme
categories for all elections except those in 1964 and 1976 when horse race
headlines dominated. Horse race headlines were ranked second overall and
slipped to third ranking only in 1980 and 1996. Oddly, while scene setting
ranged from 0% in 1968 to 29% in 1956, it rose suddenly to 42% in 1996; that
spike appears to have been at the expense of horse race headlines which fell to
just 4%. Note that overall cumulative rankings for the entire period exactly
parrot overall rankings for paragraph content: campaigning; horse race; scene
setting; issues and qualifications; and other.
Contrary to any complaints that newspaper coverage has become increasingly
focused on non-substantive issues, it would appear that it has always been so,
at least since 1952, and insofar as coverage of the New Hampshire primary is
concerned. At least within the limits of this study, it would not be
supportable to contend, for example, that the emergence of television coverage
of presidential campaigns has led to a reduction in substantive issue coverage
in these newspapers. On the other hand, neither is there support to suggest
newspapers, less dependent upon campaign advertising for revenue (therefore less
constrained), have demonstrated eagerness to address solid issues. Clearly,
these two prestige newspapers do not appear to be equipping readers with
significant information which would enable them to make informed choices in the
However, while most previous studies found horse race coverage to be
overwhelmingly dominant, this study found campaigning to be the dominant theme.
Coverage clearly stressed the unfolding drama of the campaign at the expense of
substantive issues. This likely reflects this study's inclusion of inside-page
stories which represented 75% of the sample -- stories which would not have
been included in most previous study designs. As a result, the data reflect a
broader range of reportage, but focus more narrowly on just two newspapers and a
single primary in each of the 12 election campaigns.
To be fair to the newspapers sampled, and to add some context to this
quantitative study, the mention of several attempts by the newspapers to
bolster coverage of substantive issues is in order. For example, in 1984, The
New York Times employed a feature series entitled "The Speech." In it the paper
published a basic, constructed "stump" speech by each of the primary candidates;
the series ran over several weeks and provided the reader with the candidates'
own words to aid in their evaluations. The series appeared again in 1988.
Similarly, in 1980 the paper printed an edited transcript of the major,
televised New Hampshire primary debate.
In 1992 the Times took two unusual steps. First, it began a series analyzing
candidates' television ad campaigns, assessing content and accuracy. In
addition, the paper ran a transcript of candidate Clinton's letter to Col.
Eugene Holmes, Director of ROTC Programs at the University of Arkansas, thanking
him for saving him from the draft; printing the letter verbatim conceivably
aided readers in determining the importance of the "scandal."
Other contextual trends and incidental events also emerged in review of the
articles. For instance, it appears that in 1988 the Iowa caucuses began to
overtake the New Hampshire primary in importance based on amount of prominent
coverage. That would be an interesting direction for additional research.
A decided reduction in overall coverage of the New Hampshire primary in 1960
appears to have been the result of a massive snow storm which assaulted the
Northeast several days before the election. Roads and transportation terminals
were closed and phone lines and utilities were knocked out. As a result, many
campaign activities were canceled and reporters, in an era preceding satellite
dishes, modems and cellular phones, would have had an extremely difficult time
getting any stories to their editors.
It's interesting to note, too, that coverage was heavy in 1952, the year of the
first New Hampshire primary, but dipped sharply during the following two
elections. Gauged simply by number of articles, the event failed to reach 1952
levels until the 1980s. The reduced attention in 1956 and 1960 may have
resulted from the introduction of additional primaries competing for national
attention. In 1972, for the first time, more than half the national party
convention delegates were chosen through the state primary system;20 as a
result, the increased importance of the primaries has clearly led to increased
Perhaps the most significant problem emerging from this study centers on the
methodology itself. While many excellent studies have been conducted, few share
categorical definitions for thematic coverage. For example, "campaign issues"
in one study may define non-substantive, mechanical dimensions, while in another
study the same term may encompass policy issues. Clearly there is a need for
agreement on a set of categorical definitions so that these studies become more
usefully comparable in relation to each other.
In sum, while newspapers are devoting considerable coverage to this important
event, insight into candidates' positions on critical issues, or even what those
issues are, appears to be overshadowed by coverage of the mechanics and horse
race dimensions of the campaign. While various themes have occasionally spiked
or dipped, substantive issue coverage tends to remain buried within bountiful
information which may be of passing interest, but which provides little
assistance inside the voting booth.
A logical follow-on approach to future studies would be to tie these results to
potential antecedents. For example, gatekeeping studies would help identify
editors' motivations in determining the content of newspaper coverage. Do they,
for example, feel they are meeting perceived readership needs? To examine
consequences, surveys and/or field experiments might help determine if readers
are feeling gratified by the current content levels and may suggest potential
links to low voter turnout.
APPENDIX 1: TABLES
APPENDIX 2: CODING SHEET
1 James W. Davis, Presidential Primaries: Road to the White House (New York:
Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1967): 3.
2 ibid., p.3.
3 Becky M. Nicolaides, "Radio Electioneering in the American Presidential
Campaigns of 1932 and 1936," Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
8-2 (1988): 115-138.
4 David S. Castle, "Media Coverage of the Presidential Primaries," American
Politics Quarterly 19-1 (June 1991): 33-42.
5 Jack M. McLeod, Gerald M. Kosicki, and Douglas M. McLeod, "The Expanding
Boundaries of Political Communication Effects," in Jennings Bryant and Dolf
Zillmann (eds.) Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research (Hillsdale, New
Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., 1994): 128-129.
6 M. Gurevitch and J.G. Blumler, "Political Communication Systems and Democratic
Values," in J. Lichtenberg (ed.) Democracy and the Mass Media (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press): 269-289.
7 Erica G. King, "Thematic Coverage of the 1988 Presidential Primaries: A
Comparison of USA Today and The New York Times, Journalism Quarterly 70 (Spring
8 Thomas J. Johnson, "Filling Out the Racing Form: How the Media Covered the
Horse Race in the 1988 Primaries," Journalism Quarterly 70 (Summer 1993):
9 Thomas J. Johnson, "The Seven Dwarfs and Other Tales: How the Networks and
Select Newspapers Covered the 1988 Democratic Primaries," Journalism Quarterly
70 (Summer 1990): 311-320.
10 John M. Russonello and Frank Wolf, "Newspaper Coverage of the 1976 and 1968
Presidential Campaigns," Journalism Quarterly 56 (Summer 1979): 360-364.
11 C. Richard Hofstetter and David W. Moore, "Television News Coverage of
Presidential Primaries," Journalism Quarterly 59 (Winter 1982): 651-654.
12 S. Robert Lichter, "How the Press Covered the Primaries," Public Opinion
(July/August 1988): 45-49
13 Castle, ibid.
14 Thomas E. Patterson, "More Style than Substance: Television News in U.S.
National Elections," Political Communication and Persuasion 8-3 (1991): 145-162.
15 Ann Marie Major, "'Problematic' Situations in Press Coverage of the 1988 U.S.
and French Elections," Journalism Quarterly 69 (Autumn 1992): 600-611.
16 Holli A. Semetko, "Parties, Leaders, and Issues: Images of Britain's Changing
Party System in Television News Coverage of the 1983 and 1987 General Election
Campaigns," Political Communication and Persuasion 8-3 (1991): 163-181.
17 Winfried Schulz et al, "Democracy Comes to Leipzig, GDR: Political
Communication in the First Free Local Election after the Fall of the Communist
Regime," European Journal of Communication 6-4 (December 1991): 391-416.
18 Lee Sigelman and David Bullock, "Candidates, Issues, Horse Races, and Hoopla:
Presidential Campaign Coverage, 1888-1988," American Politics Quarterly 19
(January 1991): 5-32.
19 Guido H. Stempel III, "Content Analysis," in Guido H. Stempel III and Bruce
H. Westley (eds.) Research Methods in Mass Communication (Englewood Cliffs, New
Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1989): 133.
20 John G. Geer, Nominating Presidents (New York: Greenwood Press, 1989): 3
Universe of Articles Reviewed for Study
YEAR PRIMARY DATE SAMPLE DATES ADDITIONAL SAMPLE DATE NUMBER OF ARTICLES
(New York Times/Boston Globe)
1952 11 Mar 27 Feb - 11 Mar 12 Mar 37/58
1956 13 Mar 29 Feb - 13 Mar 14 Mar 12/19
1960 8 Mar 24 Feb - 8 Mar 9 Mar 7/23
1964 10 Mar 26 Feb - 10 Mar 11 Mar 32/47
1968 12 Mar 28 Feb - 12 Mar 13 Mar 32/25
1972 7 Mar 23 Feb - 7 Mar 8 Mar 36/50
1976 24 Feb 11 Feb - 24 Feb 25 Feb 26/44
1980 26 Feb 13 Feb - 26 Feb 27 Feb 34/77
1984 28 Feb 15 Feb - 28 Feb 29 Feb 42/73
1988 16 Feb 3 Feb - 16 Feb 17 Feb 37/110
1992 18 Feb 5 Feb - 18 Feb 19 Feb 51/192
1996 20 Feb 7 Feb - 20 Feb 21 Feb 33/122
Sample dates represent two weeks leading up to and including the actual election
Additional sample date represents the day following the election
NUMBER OF PARAGRAPHS BY THEMATIC CATEGORIES IN NEW YORK TIMES AND BOSTON GLOBE
THEME '52 '56 '60 '64 '68 '72 '76 '80 '84 '88 '92 '96 TOTAL
SCENE SETTING TIMES 45 19 22 27 19 67 85 26 45 7 23 50 435
GLOBE 24 9 4 40 8 97 103 34 12 41 15 48 435
HORSE RACE TIMES 10 19 8 44 41 38 73 30 92 31 50 26 462
GLOBE 35 4 21 39 15 36 100 45 32 74 83 41 525
CAMPAIGNING TIMES 105 31 29 140 42 115 67 82 93 111 225 80 1,120
GLOBE 62 15 15 40 62 54 133 134 54 154 149 140 1,012
ISSUES & QUALIFICATIONS TIMES 24 0 1 47 38 4 2 52 7 35 52 34 296
GLOBE 13 3 17 22 6 29 7 125 33 47 88 21 411
OTHER TIMES 2 2 0 11 3 7 10 14 2 8 21 0 80
GLOBE 0 0 0 13 1 16 22 14 7 21 33 0 127
NUMBER OF PARAGRAPHS BY THEMATIC CATEGORIES, NEW YORK TIMES
Chi Square = 478.55 df = 44 p < .001
THEME '52 '56 '60 '64 '68 '72 '76 '80 '84 '88 '92 '96 TOTAL
SCENE SETTING 45 19 22 27 19 67 85 26 45 7 23 50 435
HORSE RACE 10 19 8 44 41 38 73 30 92 31 50 26 462
CAMPAIGNING 105 31 29 140 42 115 67 82 93 111 225 80 1,120
ISSUES & QUAL. 24 0 1 47 38 4 2 52 7 35 52 34 296
OTHER 2 2 0 11 3 7 10 14 2 8 21 0 80
TOTAL 186 71 60 269 143 231 237 204 239 192 371 190 2,393
THEMATIC TRENDS IN THE NEW YORK TIMES AS A PERCENTAGE
OF TOTAL COVERAGE
NUMBER OF PARAGRAPHS BY THEMATIC CATEGORIES, BOSTON GLOBE
Chi Square = 503.11 df = 44 p < .001
THEME '52 '56 '60 '64 '68 '72 '76 '80 '84 '88 '92 '96 TOTAL
SCENE SETTING 24 9 4 40 8 97 103 34 12 41 15 48 435
HORSE RACE 35 4 21 39 15 36 100 45 32 74 83 41 525
CAMPAIGNING 62 15 15 40 62 54 133 134 54 154 149 140 1,012
ISSUES & QUAL. 13 3 17 22 6 29 7 125 33 47 88 21 411
OTHER 0 0 0 13 1 16 22 14 7 21 33 0 127
TOTAL 134 31 57 154 92 232 365 352 138 337 368 250 2,510
THEMATIC TRENDS IN THE BOSTON GLOBE AS A PERCENTAGE
OF TOTAL COVERAGE
Rank Order of Themes (based on number of paragraphs) by Newspaper
'52 '56 '60 '64 '68 '72 '76 '80 '84 '88 '92 '96 Cume
New York Times 3 1 4 2 5 3 1 2 5 4 3 1 2 4 5 3 4 2 1 5 3 2 4 1 5 3 1 2 5
4 1 2 3 5 4 3 4 2 1 5 3 2 1 4 5 3 4 2 5 1 3 4 2 1 5 3 1 4 2 5 3 2 1 4 5
Boston Globe 3 2 1 4 5 3 1 2 4 5 2 4 3 1 5 1 3 2 4 5 3 2 1 4 5 1 3 2 4 5
3 1 2 5 4 3 4 2 1 5 3 4 2 1 5 3 2 4 1 5 3 4 2 5 1 3 1 2 4 5 3 2 1 4 5
1 = Scene Setting 2 = Horse Race 3 = Campaigning 4 =
Issues/Qualifications 5 = Other
THEMATIC CONTENT OF PARAGRAPHS, NEW YORK TIMES,
YEARS COLLAPSED INTO THREE PERIODS
Chi Square = 74.41 df = 8 p < .001
THEME 52-64 68-80 84-96 TOTAL
SCENE SETTING 113 (19%) 197 (24%) 125 (13%) 435 (18%)
HORSE RACE 81 (14%) 182 (22%) 199 (20%) 462 (19%)
CAMPAIGNING 305 (52%) 306 (38%) 509 (51%) 1120 (47%)
ISSUES & QUAL. 72 (12%) 96 (12%) 128 (13%) 296 (12%)
OTHER 15 (3%) 34 (4%) 31 (3%) 80 (3%)
TOTAL 586 815 992 2,393
THEMATIC CONTENT OF PARAGRAPHS, BOSTON GLOBE,
YEARS COLLAPSED INTO THREE PERIODS
Chi Square = 75.86 df = 8 p < .001
THEME 52-64 68-80 84-96 TOTAL
SCENE SETTING 77 (20%) 242 (23%) 116 (10%) 435 (17%)
HORSE RACE 99 (26%) 196 (19%) 230 (21%) 525 (21%)
CAMPAIGNING 132 (35%) 383 (37%) 497 (45%) 1,012 (40%)
ISSUES & QUAL. 55 (15%) 167 (16%) 189 (17%) 411 (16%)
OTHER 13 (3%) 53 (5%) 61 (6%) 127 (5%)
TOTAL 376 1,041 1,093 2,510
CONSOLIDATED HEADLINES BY THEMATIC CATEGORIES, NEW YORK TIMES AND BOSTON GLOBE
'52 '56 '60 '64 '68 '72 '76 '80 '84 '88 '92 '96 Total
1. Scene Setting 1 4% 2 29% 1 17% 2 10% 0 0% 4 18% 4 22% 0 0% 2 8% 3
9% 2 5% 10 42% 31 12%
2. Horse Race 10 42% 2 29% 2 33% 9 43% 2 14% 5 23% 7 39% 3 14% 9 35% 6
17% 8 19% 1 4% 64 25%
3. Camp. 11 46% 3 43% 2 33% 8 38% 9 64% 10 46% 5 28% 11 50% 12 46% 20
57% 25 60% 12 50% 128 49%
4. Issus / Qual 2 8% 0 0% 1 17% 0 0% 3 21% 2 9% 1 6% 7 32% 2 8% 4 11%
6 14% 1 4% 29 11%
5. Other 0 0% 0 0% 0 0% 1 5% 0 0% 1 5% 1 6% 1 4% 1 4% 2 6% 1 2% 0 0%
Rank Order 3 2 1 4 5 3 2 1 4 5 3 2 1 4 5 2 3 1 5 4 3 2 1 4 5 3 2 1 4 5 2
3 1 4 5 3 4 2 5 1 3 2 1 4 5 3 2 4 1 5 3 2 4 1 5 3 1 2 4 5 3 2 1 4 5