Paper Picks Fail to Sway Voters; Effect of Candidate Endorsements Seen as Limited

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), October 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

Paper Picks Fail to Sway Voters; Effect of Candidate Endorsements Seen as Limited


Byline: Jennifer Harper, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

In keeping with a long-standing election-year rite, the nation's newspapers are proffering their editorial endorsements to President Bush or Sen. John Kerry as Election Day nears.

As of yesterday, the Massachusetts Democrat led Mr. Bush by 48 papers to 34. The practice gets mixed reviews, though.

"I have to believe that even in this day and age of intense communications that newspaper endorsements still have an effect in close elections," said Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher (E&P) magazine, which maintains an ongoing tally of just who loves whom.

Historically, 175 to 250 papers nationwide make their endorsements in the pivotal weeks before the vote.

Four years ago, E&P surveyed 2,000 likely voters and revealed that 94 percent of them could not care less who their local newspaper endorsed, and 70 percent thought their paper should stop endorsing candidates altogether. Mr. Mitchell thinks such sentiments still prevail.

This year, E&P surveyed editors themselves on the endorsement process and will publish the results next week.

"We peeked behind the editorial curtain, from the New York Times on down," the magazine's editor said. "We found many papers don't make endorsements anymore, with editors believing they only influence a small number of voters. Still, if they affect 5 percent, that constitutes a large chunk in a very close race with a politically polarized electorate."

Indeed, some papers are ducking a political role. In the 1952 election, for example, 82 percent of the nation's newspapers swore allegiance either to Dwight D. Eisenhower or Adlai Stevenson for president. …

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