In the final accounting, 59% of stories that were mainly about Bush told a mainly negative story, while 25% of Kerry stories played out that way. One in three stories about Kerry were positive, one in seven for Bush.
While bias could be a factor, there are other possible explanations. Fully 40% of stories logged by the researchers had to do with the debates, where Kerry was generally seen as “winning” or doing very well, especially in debate number one. Another 9% concerned Iraq, with many setbacks during this period for the U.S. that also would drive Bush’s negatives up unrelated to the campaign. In fact, nearly one in four stories on Bush were related to Iraq.
The study also notes “some differences in tone between different media,” finding that newspapers “were the most negative medium by a sizable margin.” Some 46% of all newspaper stories carried a negative cast, compared with 28% for the networks and 30% for the two cable shows. Newspapers were also harsher in tone about Bush than the other media. Network news was least negative.