Date of Award

5-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Communication and Information

Major Professor

Dorothy Bowles

Committee Members

Patricia Freeland, Roxanne Hovland, Catherine Luther

Abstract

From the early 1900s when the first Congresswoman, Jeannette Rankin, in reference to a reporter, shouted, “Tell him to go to hell!” to the late 1980s when gubernatorial candidate Evelyn Murphy, in reference to an unflattering picture of her in jogging shorts published in the Boston Herald, stated, “Just some kind of parity among us, that’s all I’m asking,” the tension between women in political positions and the news media has been a topic of considerable scholarly interest (Witt, Paget, & Matthews, 1995, p. 186, 183). This research project continues the stream of research on news media coverage of female political candidates by investigating the news media coverage of female candidates in the 2000 and 2004 presidential primary elections, Elizabeth Dole and Carol Moseley Braun, via a content analysis and experimental design. The most noteworthy findings of the content analysis portion of this study indicated that the news media covered the female candidates in recent presidential primary elections in a relatively equal manner when compared to the male candidates. However, subtle, yet significant, differences did surface, particularly in terms of the emphasis on negative fundraising and gender coverage in the news media content of the female presidential hopefuls. In addition, the experimental portion of this research project found that potential voters reading articles about a hypothetical presidential primary candidate evaluated the contender differently depending on whether they read news content adapted from an article about Elizabeth Dole or adapted from an article about George W. Bush and whether they read a news article about a female candidate or a male candidate. Perhaps most strikingly, the potential voters rated the candidate in the male article as more viable than the candidate in the female article and the male candidate as more viable than the female candidate.

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Communication Commons

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