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September 28, 2000 Contact: Melissa Ring (617) 496-9761

Recent News Stories Work to Gore's Advantage
Both Candidates Gain From Oprah Appearances

Voter Involvement Index Survey Methodology

During the past two months, Al Gore has benefited more from audience response to prominent campaign news stories than has his Republican rival George W. Bush. Gore also drew a more favorable audience reaction from his appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, although viewers responded positively to both candidates.

During the past few months, the Shorenstein Center weekly national poll has included questions about Americans' reactions to a number of the more prominent campaign news stories. The Shorenstein Center poll also questioned respondents about Bush and Gore's appearances on Oprah.

Gore wowed Oprah viewers. Nearly half of those who saw the interview described Gore's appearance as "very" or "extremely" interesting, and 44% claimed that they now had a better opinion of him. Less than 1% of the show's viewers claimed they liked him less well because of what they saw. By comparison, only 32% said Bush's appearance was extremely or very interesting, and 26% said they had a higher opinion of him as a result. Four percent said they liked him less well after watching his appearance. "Gore and Bush are both using Oprah-type programs to great advantage," says Marvin Kalb, executive director of the Shorenstein Center's Washington office. "They provide more time, easier questions, and an opportunity to convey personality as well as policy, and allow the candidates to sidestep for a time the more aggressive and traditional press."

Bush also lost the news battle in the choice of running mates. Of people aware of news stories about Richard Cheney's selection at the time of its announcement, 17% claimed that they thought more highly of Bush as a result of what they had seen, read, or heard in these stories. In the case of Joseph Lieberman's selection, 26% claimed to have a better opinion of Gore as a result of news stories they had seen.

  Voter Involvement Index
September 20-24 36%
September 13-17 35%
September 6-11 25%
August 30 September 3 34%
August 23-27 34%
August 16-20 42%
Source: Shorenstein Center Poll
Sampling error: ±6%

Bush's choice of military readiness as a post-convention issue also played less well with news audiences than Gore's emphasis on health care. Only slightly more people (22%) claimed that they had a higher opinion of Bush after exposure to news stories about his views on military readiness than the proportion (20%) who said the stories had diminished their opinion of him. On the other hand, 21% of those exposed to news stories about Gore's health care proposals claimed that they had a better image of him as a result of the coverage, while only 10% said it had diminished their opinion of him.

News coverage of Bush's off-mike comment about The New York Times' Adam Clymer, his debate maneuvers, and his campaign's "RATS" ad provoked a negative response toward the GOP nominee. The RATS story produced the most one-sided reaction. Among the 47% who recalled the story, 15% claimed it had diminished their opinion of Bush while only 1% said it improved their opinion. "The Bush campaign has clearly fared less well in the news than the Gore campaign, although it is reasonable to assume that news audiences have reacted negatively to the rash of stories during the past week about Gore's miscues," says Thomas Patterson, director of the Shorenstein Center surveys and Bradlee Professor of Government and the Press at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

The results reported here are from nationwide telephone surveys of approximately 1,000 adults conducted November 14, 1999 September 24, 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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