Senate Campaign Seen As Negative But Fair, Honest, And Informative
26, 2000 -- A poll released Wednesday by the Sorensen
Institute for Political Leadership at the University of Virginia
finds that a majority of Virginia residents believe that U.S. Senate
candidates George Allen and Charles Robb are waging increasingly
"negative" campaigns against each other. But they also
believe that each candidate is running a "fair" and "honest"
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
Institutes last poll, taken in early September, when only
31.3 percent thought the campaign was negative and 31 percent
said it was positive.
despite their views on the escalating negativity of the campaign,
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; Allens 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 dont believe that attacks
on a candidates 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.
percent consider the race to be "informative," a considerable
increase from five weeks earlier, when only 26 percent said
that it was informative. Moreover, a full 88 percent could name
both the Republican and Democratic candidate when asked, up from
78 percent just five weeks ago.
significant that, whatever their assessments of the overall campaign,
citizens in Virginia appear to be learning from the campaign,"
said Paul Freedman, Assistant Professor in the Department of Government
at UVa and Research Director for the Sorensen study. "The ads
that have blanketed the state by the candidates and their allies
seem to have significant informational content."
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.
are the survey data, a description of how the survey was conducted,
and a description of the Project on Campaign Conduct.
Bob Wood, (804) 982-5698