After Conventions, Americans More Positive About Presidential Campaign
On the heels of the party conventions, Americans are more satisfied with the presidential campaign than at any previous time during this election year.
Since early November, the Shorenstein Center has conducted a weekly national poll as part of its Vanishing Voter Project. Each weekly poll has included four questions designed to gauge citizens' reactions to that week's campaign events. Respondents are asked whether the campaign has been "boring" or "exciting", "informative" or "uninformative", and "primarily positive" or "primarily negative"; and whether it has made them feel "encouraged" or "discouraged".
By all four measures, the percentage of Americans describing the campaign in positive terms has risen steadily through August. According to the most recent survey, a majority of Americans described the tone of the campaign in the past week as positive (61%) rather than negative (17%); twice as many were encouraged (50%) as discouraged (25%) by the week's campaign events. Both are election year highs. Americans also found the campaign more informative and exciting during the convention weeks than at any time since the decisive weeks of the primary campaign.
"The latest data prove the continuing viability and relevance of political conventions. They attracted the attention of the American people, who were encouraged to think positively about their political system once again," says Marvin Kalb, co-director of the Vanishing Voter Project and the Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center's Washington Office. Indeed, those who watched more than a few minutes of convention coverage gave it a favorable evaluation. Over one-third said they found the coverage "extremely" or "very" interesting (35%), while another 47% found it "somewhat interesting". Viewers were equally likely to describe the coverage as "very" or "extremely" informative (37%) and "somewhat" informative (42%).
Although all major demographic groups became more satisfied with the campaign during the party conventions, Republicans responded more favorably to the campaign the week of the Republican convention, and Democrats more favorably during the Democratic convention. The conventions, however, remain partisan events. Political independents are more satisfied with the campaign today than they were before the conventions, but did not exhibit the "bounce" enjoyed by Democrats and Republicans during their respective convention weeks.
The results reported here are from nationwide telephone surveys of approximately 1,000 adults conducted November 14, 1999 August 20, 2000. The surveys have a sampling error of ±3%. The Vanishing Voter Project is a study by the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Funding for the project is provided by The Pew Charitable Trusts. The project is co-directed by Thomas E. Patterson, Bradlee Professor of Government & the Press at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard, and by Marvin Kalb, Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center's office in Washington.
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