Home – Then and Now: What Media Analysis Reveals about Presidential Elections

Then and Now: What Media Analysis Reveals about Presidential Elections

Posted on 01-07-2016 by Megan Burnside

On January 7, 1789, the first U.S. presidential election took place. Presidential election cycles have changed in the 227 years since that auspicious occasion, so rather than marking the end of campaign season, January is when the rubber hits the road, so to speak. We’re following current election news with our U.S. Presidential Campaign Tracker, but with history on our minds, we thought it would be interesting to check out how this year’s campaign topics and candidates compare to those in 2008.

Trending Topics Follow a Familiar Pattern

It’s been said that the more things change, the more they stay the same.  Our research of the news archives in Nexis® certainly supports that old adage. A search of major U.S. publications for news about candidates in January 2008 revealed some common themes among the presidential hopefuls. 


In 2008, a New York Times piece noted that a breakdown of where candidates stand on topics “… made clear the extent to which Democrats and Republicans live in separate moral and intellectual universes.”  While Democrats focused their stump speeches on exit strategies for the Iraq war and progressive policies on taxes, healthcare and the environment, Republicans set their sights on security and immigration.  Sound familiar?

Another enduring topic—the economy—may not be grabbing as many headlines today, but in 2008, home foreclosures and rising unemployment were top of mind for voters so it featured prominently on both sides of the campaign trail.  And we can’t help but remember when another Clinton was running for the White House, and the prominent role that the economy played in his successful bid for the job.

Predicting Performance using Media Analysis

When it comes to the candidates, media monitoring and analysis offers glimpses into what we can expect as the candidates continue their march towards November. The early caucuses and primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire will begin an exodus of candidates who aren’t capturing media and voter attention, and after Super Tuesday, the field of contenders will have narrowed considerably.  Looking back at news from January 2008, we found that three of the seven Republican candidates dropped out in January and five of the eight Democratic candidates followed suit.

One last trend—the incumbent President faces almost constant criticism from the candidates of the opposing party. Of course, that’s a trend we could predict with or without media analysis. After all, it’s the nature of the beast in politics, right? 

3 Ways to Apply This Information Now

  1. Keep following the election year action on the U.S. Presidential Campaign Tracker.
  2. Read some of our previous Election posts.
  3. Share this blog on LinkedIn to keep the dialogue going with your colleagues and contacts. 

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