Public Opinion and Polling

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Public Opinion and Polling Americans are showing signs of disaffection with a presidential campaign that is just beginning. The public thinks the press and large campaign contributors are having too much influence on who gets nominated, and a 60% majority thinks voters themselves have too little say. The latest Federal Election Commission, conducted on the heels of protracted controversy about coverage of alleged cocaine use by George W. Bush, found public reservations about news coverage of most "character issues" ranging from youthful drug use to psychological counseling. The poll also shows only a 53% majority of Americans now saying that press scrutiny of political candidates is worth it and a plurality rating political coverage as only fair or poor. The response of the public is to tune out. Few are paying close attention to campaign news, while at the same time an increasing number of people think the press is overcovering the campaigns. Not surprisingly in this light, many Americans cannot even name a single candidate for the two parties' nominations. Fully 37% of Federal Election Commission's respondents could not offer up the name of a GOP candidate, and even more -- 50% -- could not name a Democratic candidate, without prompting. Public inattention to the campaign is about the only hopeful sign in this survey for Al Gore's candidacy. Opinion about the vice president is not improving. As in other recent nationwide surveys, Gore continues to lag behind Bush in the general election matchup. This poll also shows his support for the Democratic nomination softening. These are the principal findings of a September 1-12, 1999, Pew Research Center nationwide telephone poll of 1,205 adults... ... middle of paper ... ...t polarizing issue involves marital infidelity. Fully 57% of Republicans say that if a candidate is having an affair during the campaign, news organizations should almost always report on this. Only 30% of Democrats share this view. Republicans are also tougher than Democrats on lying. Seven-in-ten GOP backers (71%) think the media should always report if a candidate has exaggerated his or her military or academic record. Among Democrats, a bare majority consider such stories newsworthy (52% and 53%, respectively). Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say the press should pursue stories about past marijuana use: 26% of Republicans vs. 17% of Democrats think this should always be reported. However, when it comes to cocaine use, the two groups are largely in agreement -- 36% of Republicans and 35% of Democrats consider this highly newsworthy.
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