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Media looked more at opinion polls than real issues in run-up to US election, says report

Media looked more at opinion polls than real issues in run-up to US election, says report
Man in black: US President-elect Senator Barack Obama greets supporters on stage during his election night rally after being declared the winner of the 2008 presidential campaign in Chicago, November 4, 2008.Photo: Reuters / Carlos Barria

The media coverage of the US presidential elections concentrated more on opinion polls than actual issues, says a report by a media analysis firm. The American media had been even clear on stating that Republican candidate John McCain would loose his own state Arizona, which he won by a 9 per cent margin.

"We need to change the way how the media publishes and interprets polls," said Roland Schatz, President of US-based Media Tenor International. "As the last decades demonstrated not only in the US but in the rest of the world, that horse race becomes centre of the media coverage one needs to discuss how the quality of reporting can be improved.”

Focusing on polling results led to an increasing loss of connection with reality in the TV coverage of the election campaign, Schatz said. One possible explanation, according to him, might be the atmosphere in Washington DC, where most of the journalists from the US and from abroad reside: here 93 per cent of the population voted for Democratic candidate Barack Hussein Obama, only 7 per cent for McCain. In New York, the other media capital of the US, Obama scored 63 per cent of the vote—quite a wide gap compared to the national vote.

As Europe is facing their elections for the European Parliament and Germany standing 10 months ahead of its general elections, a discussion is needed how to guarantee certain standards throughout the campaigning process, the Media Tenor official said.

”Publishing ‘results’ while the election process is still running has to stop,” Schatz said. “I was irritated to see even Pew announcing results of so-called exit polls one week ahead of the actual election day. Voters need to be given a phase of at least four weeks in which they have access to the subject of choice rather than what others think to know who will be the winner as people tend to not be among the losers."

The race in Germany 2002 was dominated eight months by a clear defined “winner” Edmund Stoiber, reminded Schatz. The special media effect of the Oder-Floods turned a “landslide victory” for Edmund Stoiber into a success by the incumbent Gerhard Schröder by 6000 votes. Interpreting the detailed results of the 2008 US-Presidential Race the voters have been much closer than predicted, Media Tenor said in a statement.

“After 2 years of advertising the outcome is impressively close keeping in mind the record breaking amount which was spent by the candidates. The traditional media coverage seems to matter more than the advertising experts had expected," noted Schatz.

For the third time, international media analysis company Media Tenor has conducted a detailed analysis of the US presidential campaign. TV news coverage of the leading Presidential contenders was scrutinised at a detailed level.

“The methodology was developed 15 years ago and has been successfully used not only to analyse the 2000 and 2004 US Presidential campaigns, but also for International politics,” Schatz explained. Media Tenor’s Presidential Campaign Watch focuses not only on candidate standings, but also on topics and sources, while adding an international perspective. Results of Media Tenor studies are regularly published on

Date posted: November 6, 2008 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 481