Broken Contract? Changing Relationships between Americans and Their Government

By Stephen C. Craig | Go to book overview
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tions probably contributed to this dissatisfaction -- especially when contrasted with the highly concentrated media focus and the saturated coverage of candidates and issues in 1992.

This calculation by the Center for the Study of the American Electorate is based on valid votes cast for president. Alternatively, the Bureau of the Census Current Population Survey estimated that 61.3 percent of the voting-age population voted in the 1992 presidential election -- a figure that, like those derived from other opinion surveys, undoubtedly reflects some degree of misreporting.
These biennial surveys are conducted by the University of Michigan's Center for Political Studies and made available by the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. Most results from 1992 are based on an early ICPSR release of that particular survey; earlier information is drawn from the ANES Cumulative Data File, 1952-1990. Neither the consortium nor the original collectors of the data bear any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations here.
All of the percentages reported here are based on simple yes-no questions asking respondents whether they read or heard or watched any stories about the campaign in a given medium. See the Appendix for exact wordings.
An earlier poll ( Times Mirror 1992c, p. 51) actually showed a much wider gap (74 percent for news reports, 22 percent for paid ads) on the personal-qualities dimension; in fact, the final postelection margin of 58-35 percent was lower than in either 1988 (67-24 percent) or 1990 (65-26 percent). It also should be noted that despite the candidates' efforts (especially those of Bill Clinton and Ross Perot) to make extensive use of alternative media formats in order to reach the electorate, the effects of those efforts on turnout -- as well as on vote choice -- have been questioned. See, for example, Knack ( 1993) and Rosenstone et al. ( 1993).
In contrast to most of our findings, the 63 percent for registered voters did not represent much of a change from 1988 (61 percent).
A postelection survey done by the U.S. Department of Commerce ( 1993, p. 35) revealed that patterns of registration and turnout in 1992 did indeed vary considerably among educational attainment groups: Only 35 percent of those with less than an eighthgrade education voted, compared to 58 percent of high school graduates and 81 percent of college graduates.
Those who were younger expressed greater concern with the costs of housing and education; older citizens were more concerned with access to health care. The largest generation gap on issues occurred in regard to abortion policy preferences (with gender differences also existing among the under-35 age group in their concern about this issue (see Times Mirror 1992d, pp. 11-12).
There were generational differences in political engagement levels, but all age groups identified jobs and the economy as the "most important problem" facing the nation in 1992. Both age and gender differences did exist, however, in the perceived salience of other issues (see Times Mirror 1992c, pp. 11-12).
For example, the proportion of the electorate aged 18-24 dropped from 17.1 percent in 1980 to 13.1 percent in 1992. Figures here are calculated from census data contained in U.S. Department of Commerce ( 1993).


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