This thesis focuses on the question of preferential treatment by U.S. national newsmagazines of presidential candidates in the 2004 election as evidenced by their visual coverage. Using content analysis, all the visual depictions of candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry were analyzed for 10 visual attributes to determine whether one had received better pictorial treatment. This study asked if the newsmagazines had printed greater amounts of visuals overall for one candidate and if one candidate's visuals were more or less positive than the other. The author concludes that more coverage was given to Bush over Kerry in a 60/40 ratio in all three magazines, and overall, the pictures published for each candidate were positive and neither candidate was given preferential treatment by any of the magazines. The newsmagazines were not deemed biased for publishing more visuals of Bush because, though more visuals were of the president during September, the newsmagazines published nearly equal numbers of visuals in October and November, often pairing them in layouts. The magazines were also not biased in their selection of visuals. All three tended to publish more positive or neutral visuals and rarely did any significantly differing patterns emerge to show that the editors favored one candidate over the other. Those attributes that did reach significance had weak associations. This study is a replication and a continuation of visual media content analyses of the 1984, 1988, and 1996 campaign coverage by Moriarty and Garramone (1986), Moriarty and Poppovich (1989), and Waldman and Devitt (1998) respectively. This research adds to the body of media bias and agenda-setting among newspapers and magazines and visual media.



College and Department

Fine Arts and Communications; Communications



Date Submitted


Document Type





newsmagazines, presidential candidates, visuals, preferential treatment, coverage, biased, visual media, content analysis, media bias, agenda-setting, newspapers, magazines, replication, campaign coverage, 2004 election, George W. Bush, John Kerry



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Communication Commons