What Americans Learned From the Media About the Health Care Debate

Jun 19, 2012

After helping define the Obama presidency for almost a year, health care reform largely disappeared as a subject in the American news media as it wended its way through the legal system to the Supreme Court.

When it was a major story, however, most of the coverage focused on the politics of the bill rather than the substance of the legislation. And the language and framing of the issue favored by the bill’s Republican critics was far more prevalent in the news coverage than the language and framing favored by Democrats supporting the bill, according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

Health care reached its heights as a news story in the summer of 2009 and early 2010, during the rise of the tea party and the battles in the House and Senate over passage of the legislation. In the third quarter of 2009, with passions fueled by angry town hall meetings, coverage of the health care debate filled 18% of the newshole, according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index, making it the No. 1 story in the news. That number fell slightly but remained high in the last quarter of 2009 (13%) and the first quarter of 2010 (14%).

Read the full report, What Americans Learned From the Media About the Health Care Debate, on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism website.

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