The Distorted Mirror: Press Coverage of Women Candidates for Statewide Office
Voters see the political landscape largely through the eyes of the news media. In races for statewide office, where direct contact with politicians is rare, citizens receive most of their news about the campaign from state newspapers. Voters' dependence on the press for political information may be problematic for women running for office. A content analysis of newspaper coverage in 47 statewide campaigns between 1982 and 1988 shows that the press differentiate between male and female candidates in their campaign coverage. These differences are more dramatic in U.S. Senate races, but the differences are still evident in gubernatorial contests. In senatorial races, women receive less campaign coverage than their male counterparts and the coverage they receive is more negative—emphasizing their unlikely chances of victory. In both senatorial and gubernatorial races, women receive consistently less issue attention than their male counterparts. Furthermore, the news media seem more responsive to the messages sent by male candidates. The media's agenda more closely resembles the agenda issued by male candidates in their televised political advertisements. These systematic differences in press treatment of male and female candidates may hinder women as they strive for statewide elective office.