This study, our fourth of the campaign, focused on those stories that were recurring or major themes during the period from the last week of September until the third week of October. It deliberately captured any story that appeared twice or more in an attempt to identify the major stories threads in these critical days.

Out of the more than 1,100 stories studied, we found 61 recurring themes. These were then grouped into 11 broad categories to identify the nature of the coverage.

As was true in our first study this year, the coverage was overwhelmingly (57%) about internal politics of campaigning.2

Just one in three (29%) dealt with issues and 13% dealt with the candidates' character and record.

The four most popular themes were all related to the politics of campaigning: the most popular (22%) was assessments of the debates, both before and after those events. Second was coverage of battleground states (15%). Next came campaign strategies (12%), followed by momentum and media (8%).


Major Story Themes
Debate Analysis 22%
Battleground States 15
Campaign Strategy 12
Momentum & Media 8
Bush's Character 7
Foreign Policy 7
Gore's Character 6
Health Care & Elderly 6
Other Domestic Issues 6
Taxes 5
Energy 5
Other 1
Total 100

Only then did we find themes relating to policy or character. Foreign policy, driven by the crisis in the Middle East, and Bush's character (especially as it related to his record in Texas) each accounted for 7% of stories.

The next three themes were also character or policy related, comprising 6% each of stories: Gore's character, health care & elderly and various domestic issues.

These were followed by the themes of taxes and energy, both of which made up 5% of stories.


2. The three earlier campaign 2000 studies produced by the Committee were as follows: