U.S. Senate campaign
seen as negative but fair
majority of Virginia residents believe that U.S. Senate candidates
George Allen and Charles Robb are waging increasingly "negative"
campaigns against each other, a poll released Oct. 25 by U.Va.'s
for Political Leadership found. But they also believe that
each candidate is running a "fair" and "honest"
In the survey, conducted during the first two weeks of October,
more than 55 percent of the respondents said the campaign is "negative,"
while only 23 percent called it "positive." This is
a substantial increase in the negative rating since the institute's
last poll, taken in early September, when only 31.3 percent thought
the campaign was negative and 31 percent said it was positive.
Sorensen Project on Campaign Conduct
July of 2000, The Pew Charitable Trusts awarded a $730,000
grant to the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership.
The grant was given to support the institute's Project on
Campaign Conduct, initiated in 1997 by a previous grant
from the Trusts.
the three-year grant period, the Sorensen Institute will
continue its development of a training curriculum for state
and local candidates who are seeking office for the first
time. The three-day workshop provides a foundation of basic
campaign-related skills while focusing on ethical campaign
conduct and the effect of various campaign tactics on the
public. The goal of the project is to show candidates that
they can run campaigns that are both ethical and competitive.
their views on the escalating negativity of the campaign, however,
these same respondents say that Robb is running a "fair campaign
so far" (53 percent said "fair," 42 percent said
"unfair") and that Allen is, too (47 percent said "fair"
to 43 percent "unfair").
both candidates get very high marks for having "honest"
campaigns: When asked if "Robb is running an honest/dishonest
campaign so far," those surveyed chose "honest"
by a 41 percent to 16 percent margin; Allen's campaign received
a 42 percent "honest" to 22 percent "dishonest"
apparent contradictions are really rational assessments of modern
political campaigns, fought through TV ads," said William
H. Wood, executive director of the institute. "Voters expect
hard-hitting ads, especially in a race like this one, when both
candidates have long voting records that can be attacked. The
ads are obviously negative appraisals of an opponent's record.
But the clear message from this survey is that voters don't believe
that attacks on a candidate's record are inappropriate."
Sorensen survey demonstrated that, notwithstanding their tendency
to say the race is negative, voters have become both more engaged
and more informed over the past month.
respondents are also paying closer attention to the race now,
and say they care more about the outcome. Thirty percent say they
are paying "quite a bit" or "a great deal"
of attention to the race now (up from 25 percent), and 76 percent
care who wins the race (up from 68 percent).
of both Senate candidates are relatively favorable, but have remained
fairly constant over the past month. Sixty-one percent of respondents
have a favorable view of George Allen, a statistically insignificant
shift from 62 percent last month. More than 54 percent of respondents
have a favorable impression of Chuck Robb, virtually unchanged
from the earlier survey.