President had limited framing power in stem cell debate

[July 15, 2010]

Former President George W. Bush had little influence over the media and public opinion in regard to stem cell research, according to a recent study published in Newspaper Research Journal.

Researchers Shahira Fahmy, Wayne Wanta and Jeannine E. Relly found that despite repeated presidential criticism of stem cell research, most of the 200 newspaper articles they examined were positive. The study examines coverage from 2004 to 2006, before Bush’s veto of a bill that would have ended federal restrictions on stem cell research funding.

While Bush’s main argument against stem cell research was based on ethical issues, only 5.5 percent of articles focused on ethical concerns regarding stem cell research.

The authors concluded that the more Bush spoke out against stem cell research, the more sources were quoted in support of the issue in an attempt by news media to report both sides. Also, the more coverage of the issue, the more informed individuals became on the issue and more information resulted in more support for stem cell research.

Fahmy is an associate professor and Relly is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Wanta is the Welch-Bridgewater Chair in sports journalism in the School of Journalism and Broadcasting at Oklahoma State University.

The study was published in the summer 2010 issue of Newspaper Research Journal.

Contacts: Sandra H. Utt Cell: (901) 628-2553 e-mail: or
Elinor Kelley Grusin e-mail:


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