New CMI Study Reveals Three Major Media Narratives about Sarah Palin

October 29th, 2008 9:00 AM

In a just released study, "A Study in Character Assassination: How the TV Networks Have Portrayed Sarah Palin as Dunce or Demon," CMI analysts found that ABC, CBS and NBC are airing 18 negative stories for every one positive story on Sarah Palin, the Republican vice-presidential candidate.

Is it any wonder that polls revealed a 17 percent increase in Palin's unfavorability ratings in just one month? 

After examining the TV news coverage of Palin from September 29 to October 12, CMI found that ABC, NBC and CBS news shows ran 69 stories about Palin.  2 stories were positive, 37 were negative and 30 were neutral.  The 2 positive stories were a two-part interview with Palin's parents on the CBS Early Show.  Not one of the major network evening news programs - ABC's World News, NBC's Nightly News, and CBS's Evening News - ran a single positive story about Palin.

ABC was hardest on Palin, as 60 percent of its stories on Palin were negative.  NBC came in second, as 54 percent of its stories were negative.  CBS also ran 54 percent negative stories, but also ran the only two positive stories (8 percent). 

CMI found that the networks promoted three major narratives about Palin:

1. Palin is an unqualified dunce. Networks established this narrative through their decisions to re-air clips of actress Tina Fey's impersonation of Palin and the most embarrassing clips from Palin's interviews with CBS' Katie Couric. Overall, 21 network stories attempted to portray Palin as out-of-her-league in her vice-presidential bid. Eleven clips of Fey's impersonation were replayed over the course of two weeks, and 14 clips of the Couric interviews were re-aired.

2. Conservatives are rejecting Palin. Nine stories emphasized attacks levied at Palin by conservative columnists. However, the networks failed to mention the support Palin has by popular conservative pundits Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin.

3. Palin is McCain's attack dog. Fourteen network segments demonized Palin for criticizing Barack Obama. No story analyzed in the study featured parts of her speeches that did not focus on the Obama-Biden campaign.

Sarah Palin's nomination changed the presidential race, creating a real threat to the media's preferred candidate, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama.  ABC, NBC and CBS have rallied to Obama's defense by working hard to bring Palin down.