Rick Santorum •


Rick Santorum smiles as he addresses an audience. Photo by AP, ABC News. 3/25/2012


HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE GOP PRIMARIES

MORE ISOLATED THAN ROMNEY:  The 18 news outlets in this study not only paid significant attention to Rick Santorum’s candidacy during the February 25 to March 25 GOP primary season, most photos pictured him positively.

Yet for all that,  Santorum appeared alone in the majority of the photographs. Many sites used photos that were simply head shots of Santorum at a podium and those could at times (as in the photo below) make him appear visionary.  Yet although it was clear Santorum was addressing an audience on most of those occasions, the lack of  visible bodies in the frame led researchers to code Santorum as “alone,” despite the obvious assumption of an audience.  Taken in the aggregate, the relative dearth of photos of Santorum directly interacting with supporters — even if the images of him mingling that did appear were almost uniformly positive — contributed to the visual framing of Santorum as less engaged with the public than photographs of Mitt Romney showed him as being.

A headshot of Santorum published to the Washington Post site on March 3, 2012 provides little background but the expression on his face. Associated Press

Coders also noted that for a candidate who presented himself as a “family” man, being seen mostly “alone” did little to advance his campaign’s message.  Researchers noted that the scarcity of images of Santorum directly interacting with his family or having them stand behind him was particularly noticeable when compared to how ubiquitous were the photos of Mitt Romney and his family.

With Santorum as Romney’s main competition, the media had a tendency to compare the two candidates in almost every facet of the campaign.  In this study of the photographic coverage of the GOP primaries, coders observed that while Santorum was pictured often, and pictured positively, on almost every measure Romney came out ahead:  the 18 news outlets published more photos of Romney, he was pictured smiling more often, engaged with the public more often, backed by the American flag more often.

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Rick Santorum, ABC. AP 3/25/12

PICTURED AS SERIOUS AND PRESIDENTIAL:  Although photographs of Santorum captured him in a wide variety of settings, on the majority of occasions he was pictured speaking to audiences, his level gaze, erect posture, intelligent expressions and forceful gestures captured in photographs prompted researchers to code those images as making him appear confident and presidential.

As was the case across the photographs of all four candidates, photographers sought to capture Santorum while he was animated, which often meant that he was often pictured making broad gestures.  In many photographs he is pointing his finger at the audience for emphasis, or otherwise waving, making “air quotes,” or on a number of occasions holding up an “Etch a Sketch” to visually illustrate his “metaphor” about Governor Romney.

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Rick Santorum, ABC. AP. 3/18/12

LIKABLE AS WELL AS CONFIDENT:   When Santorum did appear in photographs mingling with supporters he often was captured with his tie off or sleeves rolled up,  boyishly smiling and literally reaching out to touch someone.  In these casual situations, Santorum appeared especially likable and approachable.


For additional details about the photographic coverage of Rick Santorum, see the individual news outlet pages.