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June 1, 2000 Contact: Melissa Ring (617) 496-9761

Americans Take Vacation from Presidential Campaign

Voter Involvement Index Survey Methodology

The final set of presidential primaries will be held June 6, more than four months after the first nominating contest. But with five months remaining before the November election, the campaign is not informing or engaging most Americans.

News Coverage and Campaign Involvement

Although both Bush and Gore have given major policy speeches in recent weeks, the latest Shorenstein Center national poll shows that nearly five times as many Americans find the campaign "uninformative" as find it "informative" (64% to 13%). They are also much more likely to describe the campaign as "boring" rather than "exciting" (69% to 5%).

The Vanishing Voter Project has been tracking campaign coverage in five major U.S. newspapers since November of last year. Despite the candidates' recent campaign activities, news coverage has remained relatively low and constant since the nominations were effectively decided in March.

  Voter Involvement Index
May 24-28 21%
May 17-21 16%
May 24-28 21%
May 17-21 16%
May 10-14 20%
May 3-7 18%
Apr. 26-30 18%
Apr. 18-22 20%
Source: Shorenstein Center Poll
Sampling error: ±6%

Public involvement has behaved in much the same way. Weekly Shorenstein Center polls show that approximately 70% of the public paid little or no attention to the campaign during the average week in May. Most Americans are not talking about it (86%) or even thinking about it (76%). "The presidential campaign has become a surreal abstraction for most Americans," says Marvin Kalb, co-director of the Vanishing Voter Project and the Executive Director of the Shorenstein Center's Washington Office. "Uninformative, boring, disconnected from their daily lives, it hangs suspended--a crucial period of American politics, largely ignored by the American people, and likely to remain so until the August conventions."

The results reported here are from nationwide telephone surveys of approximately 1,000 adults conducted November 14, 1999 May 28, 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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