Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Professor Analyzes Presidential Debates

Date:
October 21, 2008
Source:
University of Missouri-Columbia
Summary:
Now that the general election debates are over, University of Missouri Professor of Communication William Benoit has analyzed the content of the three encounters between Senators McCain and Obama.

Now that the general election debates are over, University of Missouri Professor of Communication Willliam Benoit has analyzed the content of the three encounters between Senators McCain and Obama. He found that, overall, these presidential debates looked much like earlier debates.

During the presidential debates, 56 percent of the candidate statements were positive (57 percent in past campaigns' debates), 35 percent were attacks (same as in the past), and 7 percent were defenses or refutations of attacks (8 percent historically).

Overall, the two candidates were very close. Senator Obama had 34 percent attacking statements; Senator McCain had 36 percent. But there were great variations across the debates: McCain attacked in 34 percent of statements in debates one and two, but his attack output increased to 40 percent in the final debate. Obama's percentage of attacks declined steadily: 42 percent in debate one, 35 percent in debate two, and only 24 percent in debate three. These contrasts may well reflect the candidates' positions in the polls and projected Electoral College votes: Obama led during the debates; McCain was unable to catch up during the debates.

The three debates had more consistency in overall topic (policy versus character). In every debate, both candidates discussed policy more than character, but Obama emphasized policy more, and character less, than McCain in every debate. Overall, 74 percent of Obama's statements concerned policy and 26 percent concerned character (about the level of past debates: 75 percent policy, 25 percent character). McCain, on the other hand, addressed policy in 67 percent of his remarks and character in 33 percent.

Differences in the topics of their attacks also emerged during the debates. Overall – for both candidates in all three debates – attacks were more about policy (65 percent) than character (35 percent). However, Obama attacked more on policy (73 percent to 56 percent) and less on character (24 percent to 44 percent) than McCain. Furthermore, Obama's percentages of attacks on character remained at almost the same level in each debate (26 percent, 23 percent, 23 percent), but McCain's attacks on character increased sharply in the third debate (39 percent, 33 percent, 54 percent). Only McCain, and only in the third debate, ever made more attacks on character than policy. McCain stepped up his level of attacks in the final debate, and he attacked more on character than policy in that debate.

It is not clear whether the content of the 2008 debates tend to favor one candidate over the other. Historically, there has been some advantage at the polls to those who attacked more than opponents in debates (McCain attacked more in 2008). On the other hand, election winners tend to discuss policy more, and character less, than losers (Obama stressed policy more, and character less, than McCain). Similarly, winners are likely to focus their attacks more on policy, and less on character, than losers (Obama made more attacks on policy, and less on character, than McCain).

William Benoit is a professor of communication at the University of Missouri. He has written several books on political campaigns, including Communication in Political Campaigns (2007).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Missouri-Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Missouri-Columbia. "Professor Analyzes Presidential Debates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081021120920.htm>.
University of Missouri-Columbia. (2008, October 21). Professor Analyzes Presidential Debates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081021120920.htm
University of Missouri-Columbia. "Professor Analyzes Presidential Debates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081021120920.htm (accessed August 23, 2014).

Share This




More Science & Society News

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

Endangered Red Wolves Face Uncertain Future

AP (Aug. 22, 2014) A federal judge temporarily banned coyote hunting to save endangered red wolves, but local hunters say that the wolf preservation program does more harm than good. Meanwhile federal officials are reviewing its wolf program in North Carolina. (Aug. 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bank of America's $17 Bln Settlement

Bank of America's $17 Bln Settlement

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 21, 2014) Bank of America's settlement is by far the largest amount paid by big banks facing mortgage securities probes. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Former TSA X-Ray Scanners Easily Tricked To Miss Weapons

Former TSA X-Ray Scanners Easily Tricked To Miss Weapons

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) Researchers found the scanners could be duped simply by placing a weapon off to the side of the body or encasing it under a plastic shield. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream

AP (Aug. 21, 2014) Contains graphic content. He's only 17. But Johntrell Bowles has wanted to be a doctor from a young age, despite the odds against him. He was recently the youngest participant in a cadaver program at the Indiana University NW medical school. (Aug. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins