Study shows Palin treated differently by media as vice presidential candidate than Biden

July 6, 2012 By Stacy Forster, University of Wisconsin-Madison
New research analyzes media coverage of the 2008 vice presidential candidates.

( -- The 2008 presidential race was one of the most watched, discussed and analyzed campaigns in U.S. history, and when it came to the vice presidential candidates, voters heard a great deal about Sarah Palin.

Much more, in fact, than they heard about her , .

News coverage of Palin, then the Republican governor of Alaska, not only significantly outweighed that received by Biden, then a U.S. senator from Delaware, was markedly different in substance and across media, according to a new study of of the vice presidential candidates.

Coverage of Palin was more likely to include references to her family, and , particularly in newspapers and by political blogs, while coverage of Biden dealt more with and the economy.

"Each of these differences could have had important influences on public opinion formation and the public's voting decisions in this particular race," write Leticia Bode, a former graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who is now an assistant professor at Georgetown University, and Valerie M. Hennings, an assistant professor at Iowa State University, in the study published in the journal Politics & Policy. She conducted the research while at UW-Madison.

"Without an examination of vice presidential contests, our understanding of the intersection of political communication and the experience of women as political candidates is incomplete," Bode and Hennings write. "If in media coverage have the ability to negatively affect women candidates, this calls into question the American political system's ability to produce elected representatives in a fair and democratic manner."

Bode and Hennings tested three theories: The amount of coverage Palin received was greater than Biden; gender stereotypes would be reflected in the substance of coverage and emerge on such issues as family, electability, policy issues and physical appearance; and the amount and substance of coverage Palin and Biden received would differ across media.

They performed a content analysis that included coverage from Aug. 16 to Nov. 11, 2008, the period just before the Democratic National Convention to the week after the general election. News coverage mentioning the candidates was gleaned from the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today; transcripts from the three major broadcast networks' evening broadcasts, as well as the equivalent periods on CNN and Fox News; and entries on nearly 400 political blogs.

The research showed that the vice presidential race in 2008 was in itself unique because of the attention it received. Discussion about McCain selecting Palin accounted for 7 percent of all television election coverage of the 2008 campaign, while the debate between Palin and Biden was the most-watched vice presidential debate in U.S. history, attracting nearly 70 million viewers.

In addition, the authors said, the race was especially novel because of Palin's selection as the first woman on a Republican presidential ticket.

The high level of interest in her candidacy was reflected in the volume of coverage that went her way. The authors found that the average number of stories a day in overall coverage was 36 for Palin, compared with 14.9 for Biden. On television, Palin was the subject of 8.8 stories a day compared with 4.6 for Biden; in newspapers, it was 15 compared with 8.2 stories a day, and on , 14.2 compared with 3.2 stories a day.

In that coverage, the authors found evidence of gender stereotypes, with stories mentioning her family, physical appearance and positions on social issues; this trend was more pronounced on television. However, on issues that might be considered "women's issues," such as health care or education, Biden received more coverage.

"Each of these differences could have had important influences on formation and the public's voting decisions in this particular race," the authors write. "If future research finds similar differences in in other races, the implications could significantly affect the election process, particularly for female candidates."

Explore further: Identity politics: Sex, race color perceptions of Obama, Palin

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3.5 / 5 (8) Jul 06, 2012
In her case less would have been more. The less she had a chance to show off her ineptitude the more people might have voted for her (and Mccaine...but in his case the 'less is more' issue applies also. Not campaigning at all and just going with a generic "vote republican"-message might have given them the best results).
3.1 / 5 (8) Jul 06, 2012
No mention of this study attempting to control for the fact that Palin constantly used her family as an example of good Christian values. One would guess this had something to do with media reports about her family. Also no mention of the fact that she was constantly talking about the Right's obsession with reproductive and end-of-life issues which no doubt made it into the news. On the other side, perhaps Biden received more coverage of "women's issues" due to his tendency to address these issues. It is difficult to see how this study draws any conclusions about gender bias without controlling for these factors.
2.5 / 5 (8) Jul 06, 2012
Given that Palin is even dumber than George Lush Jr. it is only fitting that her intellectual inferiority be focused upon.

Only Republicans want to vote a Moron, and wanton Murderer into the White House.

2.7 / 5 (7) Jul 06, 2012
It would appear that some candidates should require psychological assessment to determine their fitness for office, especially an office as powerful and influential as that of the US Presidency.
Both Palin and George W should have ended in nicely padded rooms with jackets that firmly hugged them.
Lex Talonis
2.6 / 5 (7) Jul 06, 2012
Sarah Palin - good looking, very fuckable - but just so totally has "shit for brains".
3 / 5 (8) Jul 06, 2012
I really hate that PhysOrg rarely provides DOI or useful citation. For anyone looking for the actual study, it's in the April 2012 issue (40-2), DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-1346.2012.00350.x

I'm actually going to read this study, because on the surface it sounds embarrassingly bad... and I usually see good stuff out of U WI-Madison and Georgetown.

I know they're trying to look at gender issues and whatnot... but I hope they're not forgetting that Palin was probably the singularly most uninformed VP candidate in history? She got tons of press coverage because she couldn't even name a periodical she reads, let alone place Russia on a map. Politicians like that are catnip for the media.
2.3 / 5 (6) Jul 06, 2012
Is she dumb or did she just avoid talking like a slick career politician? I've seen interviews and she seems ok to me, so maybe her gaffes could be attributed to inexperience, nervousness, whatever. She's conservative and doesn't mince words for political gain, unlike either of the Clinton's, Obama, or any other politician of recent memory. She has unyielding principles that I found a bit refreshing, even if I didn't agree with them. So you all can have your Slick Willies and watch the country spiral into the abyss.

Don't hate her cuz she's beautiful ...
2.7 / 5 (7) Jul 06, 2012
Well it's nice to finally see a study that says what was blatantly obvious to anyone paying attention at the time. The irony is that having been a state governor, she was not only more qualified than Biden, but she was much more experienced and qualified to be president than the community agitator.

The sad thing is that the bad press caused a lot of innocent Americans to come away with a very uninformed viewpoint of her.
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 07, 2012
As Sarah Palin commenced speaking during her VP acceptance speech, it was change from B/W to Color in "The Wizard of Oz"! McCain had the opportunity to reverse the order of the GOP ticket, placing 'Palin' as Pres. Position . . . That would have been an Historic/History changing campaign and, likely the 'tragic' results in which we are now immersed!

Letters condemning Ms. Palin, were about as the comments here: about 30 to 1 against Ms. Palin. I wrote in Ms. Palin as my choice for President!
3.3 / 5 (7) Jul 07, 2012
The irony is that having been a state governor, she was not only more qualified than Biden, but she was much more experienced and qualified to be president than the community agitator.

So you're saying 2 years of being a governor makes Palin more qualified than someone with 36 years in the Senate? Even if that person chaired the Foreign Relations Committee and is able to demonstrate a good understanding of foreign policy? Would you consider a Democratic Governor of two years qualified?

The sad thing is that the bad press caused a lot of innocent Americans to come away with a very uninformed viewpoint of her.

Feel free to post a link to ONE interview where she demonstrates a clear understanding of a single issue, in detail. Note that agreeing with your conclusions is not equivalent to demonstrating an understanding.
2.8 / 5 (9) Jul 07, 2012
The anti-Palin and misogynistic comments here are proof that even people who consider themselves smarter than the average bear are also dumb-ass sheep led by leftist media and Hollywood scumbags. Palin kicked Biden's ass in the VP debate and would certainly make a better president than either the fraud Barry or the totally boring Romney. As for the clowns demanding to see/hear/read interviews proving Sarah's comprehension of important issues, they exist by the dozens. Get your pompous heads out of your rears and learn something.
2.3 / 5 (6) Jul 07, 2012
Senators don't make executive decisions. Governors do. That's why senators rarely get elected president while lots of presidents have been governors.

You can be sure that if Palin had told a guy in a wheelchair to stand up as Biden did or mentioned she campaigned in "57 states" as Obama did, those would have been added to the litany of "proof" that she's an idiot. But they were brushed off as simple mistakes by the media's favorites.

Now we finally have a study that shows they were favored.
3.7 / 5 (6) Jul 07, 2012
Is she dumb or did she just avoid talking like a slick career politician?

She's dumb. Ask anyone who worked on her campaign.

So you all can have your Slick Willies and watch the country spiral into the abyss.

I'm going to assume you forgot we were comparing Biden and Palin here. You'd probably be the first person to ever call Biden "slick". He's known for his gaffs (Joe Bombs), for having virtually no filter, and essentially saying the wrong thing far too often. He was the 2nd poorest serving Congressman until he became VP. He's not wealthy and he's certainly not slick.

Don't hate her cuz she's beautiful ...

Do you really think that's the reason? Her looks are the only thing I like about her. Most people I've talked to hate her because of her policy positions, ideology, or her vapid rhetoric.
3.2 / 5 (11) Jul 07, 2012
The pro-Palin comments appearing here are strong evidence that Conservative Americans don't have the capacity to think rationally.

Palin isn't the dumbest women in the world, but she certainly floats near the bottom of the barrel.

And as to her "winning" the debate with Biden.... Only a truly drug addled brain would think that. The same kind of drug addled brain that would look at the cartoons shown by Colon Powell at the U.N. and conclude that Saddam had WMD.

Conservative ignorance is in full bloom here.
3.5 / 5 (8) Jul 07, 2012
As to Palin's "looks", one has to be pretty vapid indeed in order to consider "looks" as a factor in leadership.

On that basis I can think of a million women more qualified than Palin.

3.9 / 5 (7) Jul 07, 2012
Palin kicked Biden's ass in the VP debate

So? I sthat why one should voite for a candidate?

Ask yourself this: would you like to have the button in the hands of Palin when McCaine got his heart attack (he's not exactly young and he's also choleric). having the button in the hands of a reactionary like McCaine would be scary enough. But Palin with the power to blow up the world? Holy cow.

Now Biden isn't the sharpest tool in the shed, but at least he isn't rash or immune to council.
3.3 / 5 (7) Jul 07, 2012

McCain's selection of a moron like Palin for VP immediately disqualified him as Presidential material.
1.5 / 5 (2) Jul 08, 2012
McCain's selection of a moron like Palin for VP immediately disqualified him as Presidential material.
At the time, it seemed the right thing to do. But I agree, in hindsight, it didn't work.
1.6 / 5 (5) Jul 08, 2012
I think the problem with the libtards on physorg is that they are too stupid to know the difference between Palin and Tina Fey.
5 / 5 (2) Jul 08, 2012
I think the problem with the libtards on physorg is that they are too stupid to know the difference between Palin and Tina Fey.

This is actually a pretty funny statement considering the real problem: Fey didn't have to change much to parody Palin.

You just gave me a good idea. I should make a "Palin or Fey?" quote quiz and see if you can pass it.
5 / 5 (3) Jul 08, 2012
"As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where where do they go? It's Alaska. " - Sarah Palin

"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care." - Sarah Palin

"Well, let's see. There's of course in the great history of America there have been rulings that there's never going to be absolute consensus by every American, and there are those issues, again, like Roe v. Wade, where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there." - Sarah Palin

5 / 5 (2) Jul 08, 2012
"He who warned, uh, the British that they weren't gonna be takin' away our arms, uh, by ringing those bells, and um, makin' sure as he's riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be sure and we were going to be free, and we were going to be armed." --Sarah Palin

Dumber than a rock.
1 / 5 (2) Jul 08, 2012
I see Palin's "death panel" statement has been quoted. Here's what she said immediately before the part quoted above:

"The Democrats promise that a government health care system will reduce the cost of health care, but as the economist Thomas Sowell has pointed out, government health care will not reduce the cost; it will simply refuse to pay the cost. And who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course." - Sarah Palin

These are wise words. "Death panel" is a provocative name that describes the logical consequence of the Obamacare law. It's a shame that some people are so in denial that they call her dumb instead of grasping the truth.

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