As Election Contest Drags On, Americans' Dissatisfaction Grows
As the election contest has continued, Americans have become increasingly disenchanted with the presidential selection process. They also increasingly believe that the electoral system has failed them.
The latest Shorenstein Center weekly national poll indicates that 66% of Americans now say that the 2000 campaign has been "depressing," up from 46% in the week before Election Day. Fewer than one in five Americans describe the campaign as "uplifting." Democrats (69%) and Independents (69%) are more critical of the campaign, but even a majority of Republicans (59%) say it has been depressing. "While most Americans say they are paying reasonably close attention to the Florida developments, a stunning 66% say the 2000 election campaign has been 'depressing' a huge leap from the 46% in the last week of the campaign," says Marvin Kalb, executive director of the Shorenstein Center's Washington Office. "Paying attention to politics these days may lead to being depressed about politics."
Most Americans also think the election has been "unfair to the voters." Fifty-seven percent of Americans hold this view, although there are major differences of opinion on this issue. Compared with 71% of Democrats and 64% of Independents, only 30% of Republicans claim the election has been "unfair" to the voters. African Americans are particularly likely to think the voters have been shortchanged. Eighty-six percent of them say the election has been "unfair" to the voters, up from 64% the week of November 19.
African Americans' general opinion of American politics has also soured. On October 24, 49% of Africans Americans were "very" or "fairly" satisfied with "the way politics is being conducted in the country these days." That fraction has now plummeted to 13%. Among Americans as a whole, satisfaction with politics has declined from 43% to 25% in the past six weeks.
Many Americans also question whether either candidate has earned the presidential office. Thirty-five percent describe George W. Bush as "undeserving" of the presidency. Forty-two percent hold this view of Al Gore. "Whichever candidate emerges as president will have a lot of work to do and should hope that the economy doesn't falter if he is to gain Americans' trust and restore their confidence in the political process," says Thomas Patterson, Shorenstein Center survey director and Bradlee Professor of Government & the Press at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
The results reported here are from nationwide telephone surveys of approximately 1,000 adults conducted November 14, 1999 December 3, 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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