Nominating Presidents: An Evaluation of Voters and Primaries

By John G. Geer | Go to book overview

discussions of the media's influence in primary elections. More important, arguments that the news media "select" nominees in the current system are overstated. First, journalists rely on the assessments of party leaders and other actors in the process when crafting their views. The news media can thus be thought of as a megaphone for the ideas and perceptions of others involved in the process. Second, one should keep in mind that the news media were important to the previous nominating arrangement, suggesting that journalists have been and are likely to remain important actors in the selection process.

Of course, one could argue that many of my arguments are simply looking "at the glass half full, rather than half empty." While such a claim may have merit, it is important to consider carefully the accuracy of the criticisms against the news media; otherwise one may be misled about the qualifications of voters in primaries to select candidates.

Nevertheless, these arguments do not mean that the news media's role is beneficial. When a large number of candidates compete, especially when some of the candidates are not well known to the public, the news media are important actors in the system and probably shape the preferences of many voters. Whether such influence means the news media are "too" important remains unclear. But it may be worth considering when and where the news media have influence and try to suggest changes in the system that reflect this information, as I shall attempt in the concluding chapter.


NOTES
1.
A great deal of work focuses on this matter. See, for instance, Patterson ( 1980), Robinson and Sheehan ( 1983), Ranney ( 1983), Arterton ( 1984), Richard Joslyn ( 1984), Brady and Johnston ( 1987), Orren and Polsby ( 1987), and Bartels ( 1988).
2.
Polsby ( 1980) offers a similar interpretation as represented by the title of his article, "The News Media as an Alternative to Party in the Presidential Selection Process."
3.
This quote comes from a videotape of NBC Nightly News the day after the New Hampshire primary.
4.
These data are from Brady and Johnston ( 1987), pp. 144-147. I added together the number of stories before and after the Iowa caucuses and calculated the relevant percentages.
5.
Of course, partisanship provides cues in the general election, which makes the decision of whom to vote for different. But the point is that "horse race" journalism does not keep voters from making substantive evaluations of the candidates.
6.
Orren and Polsby ( 1987) make a similar observation about the possible influence candidates' advertising might have on voters' preferences.
7.
While these advertisements are not a random sample of all spots, there is

-103-

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Nominating Presidents: An Evaluation of Voters and Primaries
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Political Science ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Figures and Tables ix
  • Foreword xi
  • Preface xv
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Notes 11
  • 2 - The Representativeness of Voters in Presidential Primaries 15
  • 3 - Participation in Presidential Primaries 31
  • 4 - Information and Voters Presidential Primaries 45
  • 4 Information and Voters Presidential Primaries 57
  • 5 - Voting in Presidential Primaries 63
  • Notes 84
  • 6 - The Media and Voters in Presidential Primaries 89
  • Notes 103
  • 7 - A Few Rules of the Game 105
  • Conclusion 120
  • Notes 120
  • 8 - A Proposal for Reform 125
  • Notes 136
  • Appendix I Definition of Variables Used in Explaining Turnout 139
  • Appendix II Description of Survey Questions 141
  • Appendix III The Coding of the Open-Ended Comments 145
  • Bibliography 147
  • Index 155
  • About the Author 161
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