By Erian Bradley
Presidents have used many techniques to portray themselves favorably during both wartime and peacetime.
President Theodore Roosevelt used the media to rule by popular support . He read what was in the newspapers and seized the headlines. Television hadn’t been invented yet, but newspaper in the 1900s thrived and readership doubled by then.
When television was invented, President Richard Nixon used it to help garner public support for the Vietnam War.
Presidents are aware that the media affects public opinion. They have been known to deliberately craft speeches and choose “talking points” to guide reporters in a way that benefits them and influences public perception.
Gallup News did a poll of the number of people who pay close attention to the news and it was 39 percent. Four out of 10 Americans say they are paying attention to politics.
Like Roosevelt, President George W. Bush, tried to appeal to the public during the earlier stages of the Iraq War.
In 2011, Kevin Coe, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Arizona, wrote a article including a study on George W. Bush, television news, and rationales for the Iraq War.
Coe’s article is based on his thesis examining the relationship between presidential and press rationales for the Iraq War. He said that the focus was whether Bush’s emphasis on certain rationales influenced the extent to which news media emphasized the same rationales. He used computer-assisted content analysis to analyze a year’s worth of presidential communications and television news from CBS, ABC, NBC,CNN, and FOX.
In his study he found that presidents try to communicate in ways that encourage news media to portray them in way that benefits them. They create a “strategic political communication” that controls the message that’s sent out into the public. He talked about how research has shown most presidents are successful with this “spin” of news coverage and how Bush was not the only one who had used these techniques.
Coe’s reasearch kept track of the number of times Bush was mentioned, the number of times he was directly quoted in each broadcast, and found that he was mentioned at least once in 65 percent of the broadcast programs and 90 percent of the cable programs. He was directly quoted in one-third of the broadcast programs and half of the cable programs.
Bush dominated the news stations during this time, creating a positive image of his presidency.
The topics discussed in the news coverage were: eliminating a threat, confronting evil, advancing freedom, promoting peace, supporting the troops, and keeping the faith. The study shows how Bush made his speeches and appearances appeal to the people that would agree with him.
According to the University of Arizona, Coe’s research focuses on the interaction of American political discourse, news media, and public opinion and his interests are guided toward politician’s news coverage and public opinion.