This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Gender Bias Against Sarah Palin: A Content Analysis of National Newspapers




Irwin, Katherine Coffey

Type of Degree



Communication and Journalism


A content analysis was conducted to examine whether a gender bias existed in national newspaper coverage of the 2008 presidential election. This presidential race proved to be historical in many aspects. Not only was the first African-American man elected to the office, but two female contenders with a viable chance of being elected also ran for the offices of president and vice president. The focus of this study is on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin who was a newcomer to the national political scene and who was the second female in history to run for vice president. Past research reiterates the powerful effects news media have on political campaigns (Ansolabehere, Behr, & Iyengar, 1993). Palin, although conservative, may be considered in modern times as a feminist running for political office, thereby being in opposition to traditional male hegemonic roles established in our political discourse. Gender bias towards this masculine ideology may have hindered Palin’s candidacy, portraying Palin’s feminine traits and personal image instead of focusing primarily on policy issues. Analysis between Palin and her male opponent Joseph Biden were made by examining news and editorial coverage from two prominent newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Coding for possible gender biases included these category comparisons: personal image versus performance, policy issues versus personal information, and “masculine” versus “feminine” political issues. Findings indicate that a gender bias existed against Palin as covered within U.S. newspapers. Conclusions confirm that women still struggle in the national political scene for equal coverage as their male counterpart, therefore hurting their campaign and reducing chances for female political roles.