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Anyone who followed the 2008 presidential campaign knows which candidate was considered “hard to like,” which was likely to bring change, and which one was a straight talker. The metanarratives that journalists apply to candidates become ubiquitous in news coverage and are hard to shake once they permeate the press corps (Broder 1987, Jamieson 2002). These metanarratives carry positive or negative valences. For example, being characterized as a flipflopper, as John Kerry was in the 2004 election, or an opportunist, as detractors described Mitt Romney in 2008, is detrimental to a candidate’s campaign. Public opinion research has shown that the public readily recognizes these media tropes. For example, in the 2008 presidential primary many more Democrats saw Hillary Clinton as better prepared to lead than Barack Obama, while a large majority of Democrats thought Obama was inspiring compared to a small percentage who described Clinton in similar terms. Some scholars believe these media narratives have the power to shift electoral preferences (Jamieson 2002; Scott 2002; Gurian 2003).


Baum, Matthew A., and Marion Just. "Bandwagon and Underdog Effects in the 2008 Presidential Primary Campaign: A Survey Experiment." Paper presented at the 2009 meeting of the American Political Science Association, September 4, 2009.