Trusts Expand Support Of U.Va.s Clean Campaigning Program
16, 2000 -- The University of Virginia's Sorensen
Institute for Political Leadership has received a three-year, $730,000
grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts to expand its work on programs
that encourage ethical political campaigning.
institute will use the grant to refine its Virginia programs and
then help organizations in other states create similar programs.
An important part of the grant will be a study assessing the impact
of campaign behavior -- in particular campaign advertising -- upon
the Virginia race this year between incumbent U.S. Sen. Charles
Robb and former Gov. George Allen.
institute, established in 1993, is a privately funded, nonpartisan
center that runs programs for Virginians who want to become actively
involved in the political process. From its inception, the institute
has emphasized ethical campaign conduct.
1997, it received a $410,000, 30-month grant from Pew to develop
a national program to teach state and local candidates that they
can win without resorting to unethical behavior. The program, called
the Project on Campaign Conduct, includes sessions on campaign basics
-- fund-raising, polls, message delivery -- but emphasizes how to
approach every aspect of campaigning in an ethical manner.
are very grateful to Pew for its continuing support. The new grant
will help us build on the work we've already done in Virginia and
export the Virginia model to other states," said William H.
Wood, executive director of the institute. "The vast majority
of men and women who seek public office want to run ethical campaigns
and will run ethical campaigns if they believe they can take
the high road and still win. Our job is to show them how they can
important part of the new grant is an in-depth study of campaign
behavior in the Robb-Allen race. Between July and November, the
Sorensen Institute will conduct five surveys aimed at finding out
what Virginians think about the candidates and their tactics. "If
we want to help candidates run better campaigns in the future, we
need to find out what's wrong with campaigns now," said Dale
Lawton, director of the institute's Project on Campaign Conduct.
of the public seems to be disgusted with political campaigns. Focusing
on the Robb-Allen race gives us a chance to learn how candidate
conduct -- both good and bad -- might influence public sentiment
institute will also conduct a national survey this fall to see how
Virginians opinions about campaign conduct compare with people
in other states. As with the Virginia surveys, the national study
will ask what people like and dislike about political campaigns
and how campaign conduct affects citizens' attitudes and behaviors.
The institute will incorporate the information gained from the surveys
into its curriculum for first-time candidates.
Sorensen study will be a marriage between cutting-edge political
science and the world of practical politics. Research into the effects
of campaign conduct has boomed in recent years, but has yielded
mostly contradictory findings. Paul Freedman, assistant professor
in U.Va.'s department of Government and Foreign Affairs and the
project's research director, said: "This is a tremendous opportunity
to address long-standing questions about the effects of campaign
conduct -- and negative attacks in particular -- on voters. It's
also a chance for us to move the debate forward in important ways,
by focusing on new dimensions of campaign behavior."
surveys will be conducted by U.Va.s Center for Survey Research.
Alison Meloy, formerly with CSR, will join the institute to oversee
the survey operations.
a 1998-99 survey, the institute found that Virginia voters have
clear views on what constitutes fair campaign advertising and are
prepared to punish candidates who make unfair charges. Voters rated
more than 3,000 hypothetical campaign attack scenarios. The results
showed that voters reward campaign practices perceived as fair,
and punish candidates for engaging in unfair attacks. Further, the
study found that an exchange of unfair charges makes it more likely
that voters say they will stay home on Election Day.
help with the development of the curriculum for first-time candidates,
the institute will select an advisory board composed of bipartisan
political experts from across the state. These experts will review
the institute's efforts at turning the academic research into a
program that will adequately prepare candidates for the rough-and-tumble
world of practical politics.
in Philadelphia, The Pew Charitable Trusts support nonprofit activities
in the areas of culture, education, the environment, health and
human services, public policy, and religion. Among the nation's
largest philanthropies, the Trusts support a broad range of strategically
targeted social investments designed to advance knowledge and to
translate it into effective action in the public interest.
H. Wood may be reached at the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership
at (804) 982-5698. Dale Lawton is also available at the institute
at (804) 982-4998. For additional information about The Pew Charitable
Trusts, contact Jim Bornemeier at the Trusts Public Affairs
Office at (215) 575-4818.
Dan Heuchert, (804) 924-7676