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July 26, 2000 Contact: Melissa Ring (617) 496-9761

Most Americans Do Not Know When GOP Convention Will Be Held

Voter Involvement Index Candidate Knowledge Questions
Survey Methodology

Most Americans are not aware that the Republican National Convention will be held next week. Even most registered Republicans are unaware that their party's convention is just days away.

In the latest Shorenstein Center weekly national poll, respondents were asked: Do you happen to know when the Republican Party will hold its national party convention? Will it be one week from now, two weeks from now, or more than a month from now, or aren't you sure when the Republican convention will take place?

  Voter Involvement Index
July 19-23 28%
July 12-16 22%
July 5-9 21%
June 28-July 2 25%
June 21-25 28%
June 14-19 19%
Source: Shorenstein Center Poll
Sampling error: ±6%

Nearly three-quarters (74%) said they didn't know when it would be held and another 6% said it was a month or so away. Only 19% selected a week or two weeks, which is a reasonably accurate estimate of the actual interval. "We lack comparable data on awareness of past conventions," says Tami Buhr, research coordinator of the Shorenstein Center, "but it's clear that today's public in an era of fragmented audiences and declining news consumption and political interest does not have this information."

The over-the-air broadcast networks recently announced a sharp cutback in their convention coverage. ABC and CBS will carry live coverage all four nights but for a total of only five hours each. NBC will televise the last two nights only, for a total of but two-and-a-half hours. "The convention audience this year, as in the past, will be a combination of those viewers who went to their televisions intending to watch the convention and those viewers who turned on their sets and just happened to catch it," says Thomas Patterson, director of the Shorenstein Center survey and the Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. "Both types of viewers will be fewer in number this year. Fewer people know enough to tune in, and fewer will just happen to see it because the networks have cut back on their broadcast hours."

Awareness of the timing of the GOP convention did vary somewhat by group. The best informed were registered Republicans, but even among this group, only 35% said the convention was a week or two away. The most poorly informed, as has been true on almost every indicator of campaign involvement, were young adults. Few Americans under 30 (9%) knew the Republican convention was one or two weeks away. Most did not know when it would be held (85%) or guessed incorrectly that it was more than a month away (5%).


The results reported here are from nationwide telephone surveys of approximately 1,000 adults conducted November 14, 1999 July 23, 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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