Pew Study Finds Less Than One Percent of Election Coverage Included Abortion

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 21, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Pew Study Finds Less Than One Percent of Election Coverage Included Abortion

by Steven Ertelt Editor
November 21
, 2008

Washington, DC ( — If some Americans voted for Barack Obama for president without knowing his strong pro-abortion views, a new Pew study finds the media is partly to blame. The new Pew Forum study found less than 1 percent of campaign news coverage related to abortion issues.

The Pew study examined 7,592 campaign stories from 48 news outlets during the general election.

They covered from June 1, the week that the primaries ended and Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign, to October 15, the day of the last presidential debate.

Pew found only 283 stories in which religion or religious issues played a significant role and only 9 percent of these stories covered the issues of abortion or stem cell research, with abortion getting the most attention of the two.

Although abortion was covered more prominently in previous presidential elections, Pew found this year was an exception.

Pew’s report said the coverage abortion and pro-life issues did receive "tended to come in the form of reaction to statements by the candidates and quickly receded without generating any sustained narrative."

When the mainstream media bothered to cover pro-life issues, a good portion of it centered around criticism of Governor Sarah Palin.

"Culture war issues were not a driving narrative of this election cycle. The extent to which they were present, they emerged late in the campaign and were largely tied to the nomination of Palin," Pew explained.

"When Palin was introduced to the nation as McCain’s running mate, her parenting choices raised the issue of abortion, but only momentarily," Pew added. "These stories on Palin’s biography usually fell short of examining how her belief system informs her policy choices."

Other coverage was limited to the week of the Saddleback forum.

"In one of the more episodic narratives – evangelical megachurch pastor Rick Warren’s presidential forum held at his church – the candidates’ answers on a question about abortion gained attention in the press the week of the event," Pew said.

The forum drew brief but intense media coverage — it made up 10% of all campaign coverage the week it occurred — but quickly dropped to 5% the following week. By the end of August, it was no longer a major press topic at all. Still, that was enough to have that one event account for 11% of religion-focused campaign coverage in the general election.

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