Media Coverage in California

Looking at the race for California’s Senate seat is interesting because the context of our readings this week (especially Falk) highlighted the differences in coverage based on gender. However, it’s hard to tell how these effects would manifest themselves when two women are running against each other, as is currently the case in California. That being said, there are other differences in coverage based on different factors, primarily Kamala Harris’ status as decisive frontrunner.

A search on Lexis Nexis reveals that Kamala Harris has received far more coverage in the last month, with 300 articles versus 185 for her opponent, Loretta Sanchez. Harris also seems to be mentioned more frequently in headlines. This is consistent with Falk’s findings that candidates that are seen as more viable receive more coverage.

Considering the two candidates in this race are both from the same party, it is not really surprising that they agree on the vast majority of issue that are currently being primed by the media. Their debate touched on Supreme court nominees, improving the Affordable Care Act, and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, all issues on which the candidates agree. The focus of the campaign, both from the perspective of the candidates and on the part of the local media, has therefore shifted to the candidates’ differences in personality and experience. The most obvious example of this shift is when Loretta Sanchez ended the “dab.” This move was not only a departure from Harris’ very measured and professional approach to the debate, it also sparked a conversation about how different the approaches of the respective candidates are.

Sanchez has been branding herself as anti-establishment, while she has been painting Harris as just another political insider. This approach is particularly interesting considering that Sanchez is the one who has spent the last decade in Washington as a congresswoman.

Ultimately, this Senate race is fairly weak on issue coverage. The agenda is being set to make voters think about personality rather than policy differences. However, it is impossible to say how much of this tendency comes from the fact that there are few substantial policy differences between the two candidates versus the effects of having two women running against each other.


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