About The Vanishing Voter
The Vanishing Voter Project seeks to reinvigorate the presidential campaign through research-based proposals designed to improve its structure. The project has the goal of broadening and deepening citizens' involvement in the presidential selection process.
In ever larger numbers over the past three decades, Americans have been tuning out the campaign and staying home on Election Day. In 1996, voter turnout dropped below the 50 percent level, one of the lowest ever recorded. Other indicators, such as the size of the viewing audiences for major televised campaign events, were also at or near their lowest recorded levels in 1996.
Given the many changes that have taken place in communication and politics in recent decades, it is remarkable that the structure of the presidential election process is still based on old ideas and formulas. It is equally remarkable that recent reform efforts have focused on message content when scholarly studies and historical experience indicate that improvements in the campaign process have stemmed largely from structural adjustments.
A special feature of the Project, the Voter Involvement Index, will be issued weekly, measuring Americans' involvement in the 2000 campaign. These measurements are obtained through surveys conducted by an independent firm that conducts national cross-sectional polls of approximately 1000 respondents. A few core questions will be included in every survey; secondary questions will be included on a rotating basis.
The research will also include substantial multi-method efforts during key moments of the campaign to assess how structural variations (for example, debate formats) affect involvement. The Project's web site will contain other timely survey results on election-related topics.
Tom Patterson is the Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press and survey director of the Shorenstein Center. He has conducted several major studies of the media's impact on the presidential selection process. His election books include The Unseeing Eye (1976), The Mass Media Election (1980), and Out of Order (1994). He is also the author of two introductory American Government textbooks: The American Democracy and We the People.
Marvin Kalb is the executive director of the Washington Office of the Shorenstein Center. He was founding director of the Center (1987-1999) and brings to the project his thirty years of experience in broadcast journalism. He was chief diplomatic correspondent at CBS News and NBC News, and moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press."
is the research coordinator at the Shorenstein Center. She has been involved in the Shorenstein Center studies of the 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns and was the pollster for the Dartmouth College poll during the 1996 and 2000 New Hampshire primaries. Her Harvard dissertation is on the 1996 New Hampshire primary.
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