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Rise and Shine on Democrats

How the ABC, CBS and NBC Morning Shows Are Promoting Democrats On the Road to the White House

Introduction

In the coming months, Democratic and Republican primary voters will gather to choose their nominees for President of the United States. Unlike most election years, no incumbent is on the ballot this time, leaving both parties with wide-open nomination contests. The large number of candidates in each race leaves voters with much to learn about the many competitors’ biographies, records, stances on issues, and personal character.

But are the broadcast networks providing roughly equivalent coverage of both the Democratic and Republican races? Or are liberal journalists giving more broadcast airtime and more favorable coverage to the leading Democratic candidates, handing that party an advantage going into next year’s campaign season?

To find out, a team of Media Research Center analysts examined all campaign stories on the three broadcast network morning programs from January 1 to July 31, 2007. Compared to cable news, ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’s The Early Show and NBC’s Today have a much larger combined audience — 13.7 million viewers during the first three months of this year, nine times as many as watch CNN, FNC and MSNBC combined at the same hours.

Unlike the networks’ evening newscasts, the two- and three-hour long morning shows can spend far more time delving into a candidates’ record (Good Morning America, for example, has already hosted two town hall-style meetings with candidates). And, unlike the networks’ Sunday morning shows, the three morning shows are not geared toward political junkies, but rather the everyday voters that campaigns seek to reach. Consequently, the broadcast morning shows are a prime battleground in the candidates’ competition for media attention and positive coverage.

Our analysts tabulated the total amount of coverage given to the two nomination races and each of the candidates, including all field reports, interviews and brief news items. Then the analysts conducted a more detailed examination of each interview with either one of the candidates or a designated surrogate (usually the candidate’s spouse), and tallied the airtime and whether the questions posed to the candidate represented a liberal or conservative agenda, or were ideologically neutral.

The results show that all three of the network morning shows are a favorable media forum for the Democratic candidates, and more forbidding terrain for the Republicans.