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24 Oct, 2008 01:52

U.S. election media coverage blind to policies - poll

A study on mainstream media coverage of the U.S. presidential election finds 53 per cent of the narrative focuses on the candidate's behaviour. According to the Pew Research Center, subjects like temperament, body language and personal encounters receive

More than a half of the news watched by Americans is about the U.S. presidential election. The question is: does quantity equal quality?

Never mind the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's Sarah Palin's $US 150,000 wardrobe that dominates the headlines.

According to the Pew study, the Republican vice presidential candidate commands 14 per cent of the media's attention, three times more than her democratic opponent Joe Biden.

Among the top ten campaign story lines, the Pew Study finds the Iraq War at the bottom with one per cent coverage:

Economy and Financial Crisis -18.4%
Presidential Debates – 16.9%
Palin-related Stories – 13.9%
Iraq War – 1%

Media analyst Peter Hart says voters searching for deeper substance may have to become their own private investigators.

“The media have to craft a storyline. Momentum shifts. McCain surges. Obama pulls ahead. None of it really matters but it gives the media something to talk about,” Hart says.

What is barely talked about is the U.S. Congress, the decision-maker on war funding and Wall Street bail-outs, gets little love from the non-stop news cycle even though the entire House of Representatives and thirty per cent of the Senate are up for re-election.

“You’d have to watch a lot of television or read a lot of New York Times to find something that would tell you about what the candidates think about the world. This is astonishing,” Hart says.

He says in the world of corporate news competition, commercial values trump journalistic integrity.

Terrorism may fall through the cracks but election coverage manages to produce new characters for the ever-evolving political drama.