10/05/2004 - Amid an increasingly divisive presidential campaign, voters largely agree in their positive assessments of news coverage of the first presidential debate. Solid majorities of certain Bush voters (55%), certain Kerry supporters (62%), and swing voters (60%) rate the coverage of the debate as good or excellent.
Voters also generally think that the coverage has focused more on the personal qualities of the candidates, rather than on their issue positions. Nearly identical majorities of Bush (58%) and Kerry voters (57%) believe the news coverage of the debate paid more attention to the personal qualities of the candidates rather than to their policy plans. However, even those voters who see the debate coverage as emphasizing the candidates' personalities give the media mostly positive ratings for its coverage of the debates.
Where differences emerge is in voter opinions on whether the news coverage treated both candidates equally, or was more favorable to either Bush or Kerry. Nearly half of Bush voters (47%) believe that news coverage of the debate was more favorable to Kerry, compared with 43% who say it treated both candidates equally. By contrast, most Kerry voters (60%) and about as many swing voters (58%) think both candidates were treated equally.
The latest Pew Research Center national survey, conducted among 1,002 registered voters in the three nights following the Sept. 30 debate, finds that the choice of news sources continues to be associated with voters' political preferences. Roughly three-in-ten committed Bush voters (29%) cite Fox News as their main source of debate news. That is three times the number of certain Kerry voters who cite Fox News as their main source of information about the debate. CNN is the top debate news source among Kerry voters (21%), followed by ABC News (16%).
Read the full report Debate Coverage By News Media Viewed Favorably on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.