Pew report looks at media coverage of faith in U.S. election
The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism and its sister organization The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life have just released a study on the media coverage of religion in the 2008 U.S. presidential election. A summary of the findings with links to the whole report can be found here.
“Religion played a much more significant role in the media coverage of President-elect Barack Obama than it did in the press treatment of Republican nominee John McCain during the 2008 presidential campaign, but much of the coverage related to false yet persistent rumors that Obama is a Muslim,” Pew said.
It added that there was scant scrutiny of the role of personal faith in the shaping of the candidates’ political values with the exception of Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
The moose-hunting Alaska governor ignited the Republican Party’s conservative Christian base with her evangelical faith and her strong commitment to what many in the party see as “family issues” such as unwavering opposition to abortion rights.
Among its other key findings:
- Press narratives devoted to issues of faith accounted for four percent of the coverage of the general election campaign — less than the economic crisis at nine percent but equal to that devoted to race.
- Over 50 percent of the campaign stories on religion were focused on President-elect Obama and just nine percent on McCain. Much of the coverage of Obama focused on the persistent but false rumours that he was a Muslim. Coverage of Palin focused on her family values and church background.
- Culture war issues such as abortion and gay marriage were not driving narratives of this election cycle — no surprise to those who monitored the election closely.
What do you think about the media’s coverage of religious issues and the ’08 White House race? Was there enough scrutiny in this area? And was it fair and balanced?