Columbia, Sept 30 : The first presidential debate of 2008, between John McCain and Barack Obama, reveals that most of the statements were positive.
A content analysis by a University of Missouri expert, reveals that 53 per cent of the statements in the September 26 debate were positive, followed by attacks (39 per cent) and defenses (9 percent).
The first debate of 2008 was a bit more negative than past elections' debates, but not vastly more negative, according to Bill Benoit, MU Professor of Communication. Benoit also opined that the 1960 and 1976 and 2004 presidential debates were similar in tone: 57 per cent positive statements, 35 per cent attacks and 9 per cent defenses (refutations of attacks). enoit said that it might seem as if the presidential debates are more negative than positive because the news highlights attacks and reporters quote or paraphrase attacks significantly more than the candidates use them in debates.
Given the fact that President George Bush has low levels of popularity, it is not surprising that Obama would work to link McCain and Bush.
An analysis of the debate shows that their comments were distributed as if McCain was the incumbent and Obama the challenger: McCain had more positive statements and fewer attacks than Obama, which is true of incumbent candidates in the past.
Benoit further states that the two candidates discussed policy more than character, 73 percent to 27 percent, which is almost exactly in line with past presidential debates, 75 percent policy, 25 percent character.
One unusual feature of the debate, according to Benoit's analysis, was that McCain was the target of more attacks (Obama attacked in 42 percent of his debate statements while McCain attacked 34 percent of the time) but Obama used defenses more frequently (Obama 12 percent, McCain 5 percent).
Usually, the candidate who is attacked the most, defends the most.