Name recognition drives media coverage of candidates, but may not be an advantage with start of primaries

Thursday, February 15, 2007

With Illinois Sen. Barack Obama the latest to declare his candidacy, the race for the presidential nomination for 2008 is becoming increasingly crowded. Eight Republicans and nine Democrats have formally declared that they will be campaigning to become president, while others have formed exploratory committees. For the Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Obama are considered front-runners for the nomination, according to poll results, while Sen. John McCain has been called the front-runner for the Republican nomination.

An assistant professor of political science at the University of North Texas says that, clearly, media coverage of the candidates and poll results are functions, in part, of name recognition.

"Naturally, the prospects of having a female or minority nominee for the first time are real, and this drives some of the interest in Clinton and Obama right now," says Dr. Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, who teaches a course on the presidency and has conducted research on public opinion about U.S. presidents and presidential campaigns. "People are responding to polls based on the only thing they really know about candidates. It is not policy, save for general statements on Iraq, but whether they recognize that person's name and whether they can make a determination to support one candidate or another."

He points out that most Americans have not chosen a candidate to support, so media coverage is driven not only by name recognition, but also fund raising - actual or potential - and gaffes or mistakes, such as Democratic Sen. Joe Biden describing Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy" earlier this month. Biden's remark offended some who viewed it as racist.

Eshbaugh-Soha says campaign dynamics "will provide more information about candidates, and it is over the course of a campaign where voters will solidify their support, based on other factors than name recognition."

"Since a lot of the attention that we see right now will not directly help a candidate win votes next January and February, though it may help indirectly as media attention leads to fund raising, some of the lesser known candidates are not really disadvantaged," he says. "They have an opportunity to make a name for themselves and exceed expectations. A lot of this early attention on Clinton, Obama and (former New York City Mayor Rudy) Giuliani, is raising their expectations for winning."

A second-place finish in the Iowa caucuses a year from now may hurt these candidates with great name recognition, he says, but a second-place finish in Iowa by a lesser-known candidate, such as New Mexico Gov. and Democrat Bill Richardson, "would be exceeding expectations, which may lead to momentum, more money, media attention and, perhaps, a primary victory."

"There is plenty of time," Eshbaugh-Soha says. "Although I have already written off some candidates, other lesser known candidates will rise to compete with the perceived front-runners right now. And some of the front-runners that we see today - Giuliani comes to mind - may not win anything."

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108

Category:

Latest News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Gulin "Eva" Gelogullari, native of the Black Sea Region of the Republic of Turkey, was named the Outstanding Foreign Student in North Texas for 2014 and awarded $2,500 scholarship

Monday, July 21, 2014

New UNT class explores dynamics of working with family.

Lynn Seaton
Monday, July 21, 2014

UNT College of Music jazz bass professor Lynn Seaton has been named a 2014-15 Fulbright Scholar and will depart in August for Latvia, where he will teach for the fall 2014 semester.

Monday, July 21, 2014

While the most elite college and university baseball players in the U.S. head to Omaha every summer for the College World Series, some of the most accomplished Hispanic high school seniors in the U.S. play their own series every summer -- the Collegiate World Series offered by the National Hispanic Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Texas.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Trace the steps of Charles Dickens' famous characters, uncover clues about notorious crimes and explore the spookiest spots of London and Paris in three new trips offered through the University of North Texas' Travel-Learn program, designed to blend learning with leisure travel.