Presidential position: Press coverage and portrayals of William J. Clinton and George W. Bush

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Mass Communications


Pamela J. Shoemaker


Agenda-setting, Rally effect, Presidential, Press, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush

Subject Categories

Communication | Journalism Studies | Mass Communication | Political Science | Social and Behavioral Sciences


It is widely believed that presidents enjoy a time of harmonious relations with the media known as the "honeymoon period." This paper examined press treatment of Presidents William J. Clinton and George W. Bush during the initial stages of each of their first terms in office in order to understand the nature of presidential press treatment during this time period. Utilizing a content analysis of six media outlets, this study found presidential coverage in the print media was largely balanced for both presidents--even though the circumstances surrounding their election victories were different. The study supports prevailing literature that journalists are now more interpretive (as opposed to descriptive) in their writing styles, however this study also found that Aristotle's "Golden Mean" is applicable to contemporary print media journalists covering the presidency. Although further investigation is warranted, it is possible that the election victory for Clinton, and the Supreme Court decision for Bush, acted as rallying events for the presidents. This assertion is supported by the data analysis in this paper showing that immediately following these events, criticism was momentarily muted or suspended in the press. Implications of press coverage on legislative policy, congressional relations, and public opinion are discussed.


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