Author(s): Kim Fridkin Kahn, Edie N Goldenberg
By covering male and female candidates differently, the news media may influence the success of female candidates for public office. A content analysis was conducted to assess potentially important differences in the newspaper coverage of a sample of male and female U.S. Senate candidates in the elections of 1982-86. The results of the study show that female candidates for the U.S. Senate are treated differently by the press. Female candidates receive less news coverage and the coverage they do receive concentrates more on their viability and less on their issue positions. Furthermore, female candidates' viability coverage is more negative than that of their male counterparts. Given these gender differences in press treatment, we would expect voters' recognition of male candidates to exceed that of female candidates and we would also expect evaluations of female candidates to be tied more closely to their perceived viability. Because female candidates are often considered noncompetitive by the press, this attention to the horserace may lead voters to develop more negative evaluations of female candidates. These results suggest that current patterns of press coverage may serve as a critical obstacle for women running for the U.S. Senate.