Racial Framing and Racial Appeals in the 2012 Presidential Election
50 Pages Posted: 16 Sep 2014
Date Written: 2014
Racial divides have been central to political conflict in the United States throughout its history, no less so in candidate evaluation and vote choice. The news media and campaign messages can play a key role in reinforcing or diminishing the prevalence and impact of negative racial attitudes based on the ways they represent race. In this study, we examine whether and how racial frames and references emerge in mainstream news and ideologically targeted opinion programming. Drawing on coverage of 2012 presidential election campaign in mainstream news (New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, NBC Nightly News, Fox Special Report) and in opinion programming (Rachel Maddow Show, O’Reilly Factor, Rush Limbaugh Show), we demonstrate that racial themes receive relatively limited attention in mainstream news, but are much more prominent in opinion programming. Our results show that, compared with 2008, there was less attention to Obama’s own race in mainstream news coverage though there was still considerable reference to the racial coalitions supporting the various candidates. In this way, mainstream media coverage arguably continued to prime race though in more innocuous ways. By contrast, racial themes were prominent in ideologically targeted media – with important and not unexpected variations across different ideologically targeted programs.
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