Spinning debates: The impact of the news media's coverage of the final 2004 presidential debate

Kim Fridkin, Patrick Kenney, Sarah Allen Gershon, Gina Serignese Woodall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We demonstrate that the news media's "spin" or analysis following the last presidential debate in 2004 influenced citizens' evaluations of the candidates. The media's "instant analyses" in the twenty-four hours following the debate was decidedly one-sided, favoring President Bush more than Senator Kerry. We show that the news media's spin persuaded potential voters to alter their attitudes regarding the competing candidates. We rely on a multimethodological approach, including an experiment with a quasi-experimental component, a public opinion survey, and a content analysis. To examine the media's spin, we conducted a content analysis of news coverage on television, on the Internet, and in newspapers for the twenty-four hours following the final 2004 presidential debate. Second, to examine how citizens reacted to the media's coverage, we relied on a representative public opinion survey conducted immediately following the debate. In addition, we conducted an experiment where certain individuals were exposed to the debate, while others were not, and we tracked these subjects over the course of a week to determine the stability of their attitudes in the midst of intense media coverage.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-51
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Press/Politics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Media effects
  • Media spin
  • Presidential debate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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