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Media Coverage

Propositions 187 and 200: A Qualitative Analysis of Media Coverage from 1994 and 2004

Many Americans likely believe that the media exists as an unbiased information storehouse to which they, as voters, can turn in order to help inform their decisions regarding candidates and initiatives on the ballot each election year. In cases of particularly politically charged measures, such as California's 1994 Proposition 187 and Arizona's 2004 Proposition 200, however, this is not necessarhly the case. Alericans tend to forget that major newspapers are, by and large, privately owned and are under no legal obligation to fairly represent both sides of every story in their reporting. On first glance, it appears two particular newspapers carrying major coverage of Propositions 187 and 200 -- the San Francisco Chronicle and the Arizona Republic -- make such an attempt, but with close analysis, their bias is revealed. The question that is particularly relevant to this study is whether or not the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 have influenced the level or position of media reporting on immigration issues facing American voters.

Looking first toward coverage of California's Proposition 187 in the San Francisco Chronicle, one finds an overwhelming bias against the initiative that voters overwhelmingly approved in the 1994 election, but which was eventually overturned by the a federal court five years later and never enforced. Considering articles that appeared over a five-week period -- the three weeks prior to the election and the two weeks immediately following, there are three articles that stand out. When analyzing the nature of reporting on an election issue, it is important to consider each article in the chronological order in which they appeared to the readership.

The first article, which appeared in the "This World" section on page 2.Z.1, a "Special Section: The Chronicle's Voter Handbook for Election '94," ran on Sunday,...

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