This analysis examines newspaper coverage of Barack Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s speeches on religion and public life in 2007 and 2008. It looked at national, regional and local newspaper stories archived in the LexisNexis database.
For the section on Barack Obama, the time period examined began with the earliest we found linking him with Rev. Jeremiah Wright and went through the month following his March 2008 speech on race and religion. Thus, the search parameters were April 1, 2004-April 30, 2008—a period of 4 years and one month.
For the section on Mitt Romney, the etymology begins with the earliest reference we found to him and John F. Kennedy and goes through the month following his December 2007 speech on religion and civil liberties. The resulting dates were November 1, 1993-January 30, 2008—a period of 14 years and three months.
We searched, through LexisNexis, the top 50 U.S. newspapers in circulation according to Editor & Publisher Year Book.
To gauge the coverage for each candidate and the lead-up to his speech, PEJ paired the full names of each candidate (“Barack Obama” and “Mitt Romney”) with a number of search phrases. With Obama, we searched for “Jeremiah Wright;” “Jeremiah Wright” AND “speech;” and “speech” AND “religion.” With Romney, we searched for “JFK” OR “John F. Kennedy;” “JFK” OR “John F. Kennedy” AND “speech;” “speech” AND “religion;” and “speech” AND “Mormon.”
The stories that appeared in the Nexis search were culled through, and those that marked pivotal moments in the press narrative, were instances of a breaking story, or provided illustrative examples of a reporting phenomenon were pulled and analyzed in the report.