Third Party & Independents Archives

The Debate and the Flip-flop Issue

These different strategies were clearly reflected in the breakdown of which one of the two was more frequently the subject of criticism: In Bush‘s comments and replies, 75.7% of his statements where about himself and his administration’s actions and achievements, while 24.3% were on Kerry. Conversely, Kerry criticized Bush in 71.9% of his statements and promoted his ideas in 28.1%. Charts can be found here.

These are some of the results from the real-time analysis of the first presidential TV debate. Media Tenor, a non-partisan media research institute, will analyze all debates during the presidential campaigns and immediately release the findings on its website at

The flip-flop issue

Most of the accusations of inconsistency in opinions and decisions - largely about the decision whether or not the United States should have gone to war with Iraq and in which manner - where made by George W. Bush.

Of the total number of comments by the candidates about each other alleging inconsistency, or “flip-flopping,” 67% were made by Bush about John Kerry and only 33% was Kerry speaking about Bush. While Kerry ultimately did come up with a response to Bush's charges - that his changes of mind were dwarfed by Bush's failing policies - it was not enough to effectively counter them. Bush's equation of consistency with leadership thus successfully prevented Kerry's arguments from gathering momentum. In the 90-minute debate, Bush accused Kerry of inconsistency approximately once every 9 minutes, making the issue a crucial point of discussion and a subject that Kerry could not disassociate himself from.
Charts at

The “flip-flop” issue, fostered by Republicans' criticism of Kerry, has increasingly damaged the image of Kerry in the last months. In July, TV networks’ evening news reported the matter in 13 news stories; 53.8% of them were negative in tone. In September, the number of reports on Kerry on this issue added up to 167, and 84.4% of them were negative in tone. Charts at

“After nine months of not taking the bull by the horns, Kerry missed an opportunity to hit the right tone to capture the media's and public's attention - at least for the next few days. Since the media tends to focus more on the horse race aspect of the election than on content, tonight's draw does little to alter the public's perception after weeks of weakness and criticism. Thus, Bush will likely stay ahead in the polls next week, bringing the Kerry campaign one step closer to defeat in the general election.” Says Roland Schatz, CEO of Media Tenor Institute, who will be writing on the performance of the candidates on the debates and the influence of media in public opinion during the next weeks at

Posted by Isadora Badi at October 1, 2004 11:58 AM