PEJ Campaign Coverage Index: August 25 - 31, 2008, Denver and Palin Fuel Biggest Campaign Week Yet

Sep 03, 2008

Coverage of the 2008 Presidential campaign reached its highest level last week with the drama-filled Democratic convention and the stunning Republican choice of a running mate.

When it was over, the campaign filled 69% of the overall newshole from Aug. 25-Aug. 31, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. That represents, by a substantial margin, the highest level of weekly election coverage since PEJ began tracking it in January 2007. The previous high was 55% the week of Super Tuesday.

Last week also kicked off a new phase of the campaign with Election Day looming two months away. From June 9 through Aug. 24—the so-called summer doldrums when voters prefer the beach to politics—the campaign accounted for 27% of the overall newshole examined by PEJ. Last week, with the convention season underway and the VP selections completed, that total more than doubled.

With the media focused on Denver for the first part of the week, Barack Obama and his convention dominated campaign coverage. But John McCain’s pick of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin—which caught the press and political establishment off guard—abruptly changed the subject and redirected the narrative from the Democrats to Republicans.

Indeed, in just two days, Palin emerged as a bigger story overall for the week than her Democratic counterpart, Joe Biden. Even though her selection came late in the week, Palin was a significant or dominant factor in 12% of the campaign stories, according the Campaign Coverage Index. That compares with 8% for Biden, who spent much of last week in the limelight and gave his acceptance speech.

From Aug. 25-31, Obama was a significant or dominant factor in 57% of the campaign stories, lower than his average in the last few months. McCain, who might otherwise have all but disappeared, was a factor in 25%.

Read the full report Denver and Palin Fuel Biggest Campaign Week Yet on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

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