When journalists say what a candidate doesn't: Race, nation, and the 2008 Obama presidential campaign

Penelope Sheets, Charles M. Rowling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Research indicates that U.S. news coverage of non-White political candidates tends to be race-focused and often prompts White voters to bring racial considerations to the polls. Indeed, racial considerations likely cost Barack Obama a significant percentage of White voters in the 2008 presidential election. Nonetheless, scholarship also suggests that Obama aggressively sought to transcend difference-racial or otherwise-during his 2008 campaign via explicit appeals to the national identity. Given these competing dynamics, we conducted a content analysis of both Obama's nationally televised campaign speeches and U.S. news coverage to assess the relative salience of nation- and race-related language present in this discourse. We find that Obama consistently emphasized nation over race, but that journalists overwhelmingly reprioritized race over nation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3621-3643
Number of pages23
JournalInternational Journal of Communication
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2015



  • 2008 U.S. presidential election
  • Nation
  • News values
  • Obama
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication

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