Report

How the News Media Covered Religion in the General Election

  • November 20, 2008

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.

Meanwhile, there was little attempt by the news media during the campaign to comprehensively examine the role of faith in the political values and policies of the candidates, save for those of Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. And when religion-focused campaign stories were covered by the mainstream press, often the context was negative, controversial or focused on a perceived political problem.

In all, religion was a significant but not overriding storyline in the media coverage of the 2008 campaign. But in a campaign in which an Obama victory would give the U.S. its first black president, religion received as much coverage in the media as race.

These are some of the findings of a new study of the coverage of religion in the campaign conducted by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The study examined religion-focused election coverage in 48 different news outlets between June 1 and Oct. 15, 2008.

Read the full report How the News Media Covered Religion in the General Election on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.