Do newspaper political endorsements matter to voters? - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Do newspaper political endorsements matter to voters?


Four of Iowa's largest newspapers are endorsing Mitt Romney for president.  This weekend, the Des Moines Register, Sioux City Journal, Quad City Times, and Cedar Rapids Gazette made that support official.

It's a long-standing tradition for papers to make political endorsements, dating back to many papers' political roots in colonial times.

Of course newspaper editorial staff would like to believe their endorsements do carry weight.  But in a world of an increasingly cluttered media landscape, papers taking public political positions is becoming far less significant, and in fact, does very little to persuade voters.

Thomas Schoellen of Gilbertville is retired, and still an undecided voter.

"I'm still a bit indecisive.  A lot has to do with the fact both are supporting abortion, and I'm just hoping the Republicans are not going to make taxpayers pay for abortions," said Schoellen.

While he's leaning toward Romney, Schoellen says newspaper endorsements won't sway his vote one way or the other.

Such endorsements don't matter to college professor Ronald Green of Waterloo either.

"It doesn't influence my vote at all.  I think President Obama has done a great job," Green said.

And in fact, newspaper endorsements don't carry much weight to most people.

"For example, in Kathleen Hall Jamieson's book a few years back, they interviewed people about the importance of newspaper endorsements.  One percent thought they mattered a great deal, 10 percent thought they'd matter somewhat.  But even within that group, 25 percent of the people got wrong who their paper endorsed," said Dr. Fred Waldstein, Waterloo College political science professor.

One reason for that is that voters' opinions are now influenced by multiple sources.

"It used to be the newspaper was the primary source of information that many people had, and of course, we all know that's no longer the case," Waldstein said.

That's among reasons the Waterloo Courier isn't supporting candidates this year, and never has, instead leaving it up to the audience to form its own opinions.

"We want our information to have an impact.  We want them to be able to use a variety of sources, then come to their conclusion.  We're not here to tell them how to vote," said Terry Hudson, Waterloo Courier editorial page editor.

And that's part of a trend, as fewer newspapers stick with tradition, instead opting to allow you, the voter, to take in all the available information to decide who to elect come November 6th.

Dr. Waldstein says while presidential newspaper endorsements may not persuade many votes, smaller, local races getting such endorsements can make a difference.  That's because those candidates may not be familiar to voters.  So when a newspaper endorses them based on certain issues, it allows readers to decide who to support.

Additional Note:

At most papers, an editorial board selects what endorsements to make.  That board can range in size, depending on the size of the newspaper.  The Courier, for example, has a five member editorial board.  Even among board members, there can be much disagreement on selecting, or not selecting, who to endorse.

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