New Voter Education Project Reaches One in Four North Carolina Voters, and Impresses 82% Favorably
Respondents to new survey positive on campaign media coverage
Washington, D.C., December 1996 - A civic Journalism project devoted to issues-based coverage of the North Carolina Senate and gubernatorial races caught the attention of one in four voters of the state, according to a statewide survey of registered voters in North Carolina taken immediately after the November elections.
Of those voters who recognized the project, more than 80 percent viewed it "favorably" or "very favorably."
The Pew Center for Civic Journalism sponsored the poll of North Carolina voters to gauge the impact of "Your Voice, Your Vote," an unprecedented statewide effort by 15 news organizations to emphasize coverage of issues rather than personalities in the state-wide races.
The survey indicates that the North Carolina voters were more likely than other voters to say they made voting decisions based on the candidates' positions on the issues (56 percent vs. 46 percent).
Thirty four percent of those who recognized the Voice/Vote effort said they felt better informed than in previous elections. Only 24 percent of those polled who did not recognize Voice/Vote said they felt better informed than in previous elections.
Of that group who were aware of the Voice/Vote effort, 38% felt there was more discussion of the issues in this campaign as compared to previous campaigns; 26% of those unaware felt there was more issue discussion.
A solid majority (56%) of voters felt the media coverage of the U.S. Senate race between Sen. Jesse Helms and Harvey Gantt was balanced and Fair. The survey also found that the Helms-Gantt contest was viewed negatively by many voters, with solid majorities feeling that the election lacked a discussion of issues by the candidates and had more mud-slinging than the candidates' previous race in 1990.
Of those polled, 43% felt the media had about the right amount of influence on the election, while 41% felt the media had "too much influence." Another eight percent felt the media had "too little" influence.
"Your Voice, Your Vote" newspaper partners included The Charlotte Observer; The news & Observer of Raleigh; News & Record of Greensboro; Fayetteville Observer-Times; Asheville Citizen-Times; and the Morning Star of Wilmington. Television partners were WBYV, Charlotte; WTVD, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill; WGHP, Greensboro-High Point; WLOS, Asheville; WWAY Wilmington; and the University of North Carolina Center for Public Television (PBS). The radio partners were WFAE-FM, Charlotte; WUNC-FM, Chapel Hill; WFDD-FM, Winston-Salem.
Several of the North Carolina media partners commented that the recognition level was rewarding since there were 4 million registered voters in the state, whereas the combined circulation of all the newspaper partners was only 857,000. Moreover, the last "Your Voice, Your Vote" story appeared on October 13, weeks before the survey was taken.
Ed Fouhy, Executive Director of the Pew Center, said he was "happily surprised at the relatively high numbers of voters who recognized the Voice/Vote project. The recognition and responses to 'Your Voice, Your Vote' after just one election cycle are very heartening to those of us who feel that traditional political coverage has too often excluded the public's voice," Fouhy said.
The survey results were released Saturday, December 7, by the Pew Center for Civic Journalism at "Campaigns '96: Civic Journalism in the Crossfire," a workshop sponsored by the Pew Center and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. The polling of 600 registered voters was conducted November 11-13 by Frederick Schneiders Research, a Washington, D.C.-based polling organization. The bipartisan survey was designed and analyzed by Greg Schneiders, a Democratic pollster, and Dan Casey, former Director of Research for the Republican National Committee. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.
The Pew Center for Civic Journalism is an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, which seeks to stimulate civic discourse and debate of public issues.
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