Media-weary voters just want to vote

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A fatigued nation is ready for the big finale.

Election Day can’t come soon enough for many Americans who’ve had enough of shrill, excessive press coverage of the longest campaign season in history.

“It’s all gotten to be too much. I just turn off the TV now when the negative stuff starts, or people start arguing on talk shows. And I’m tired of all the nastiness,” said Pete Ries, a Virginia corrections officer.

“This is an election, not a brawl. And I’m ready to vote, and I’m ready for some quiet,” Mr. Ries added.

The campaign officially fired up more than 630 days ago, but the press was on it long before that. Journalists were speculating about the 2008 presidential election before the 2004 election was even over. Talk of the 2012 race has already been bandied about for months.

“The electorate has a serious case of election fatigue,” said Michael Brown, professor of politics at the University of California at Santa Cruz.

“Essentially, this very intense election has been in people’s faces for 22 months now. Of course they’re tired. But they’re also tense, they’re anxious. They want the election over. They know the historic nature of it and they just want to find out how it ends.”

The combined drama of political news coverage, voter outreach, blogger input, multiple polls, political advertising, commentary, late-night fare and celebrity involvement has become pervasive for better - or worse.

A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters released Thursday revealed that only 4 percent said that celebrity endorsements hold any sway; 40 percent said they would be “less likely” to vote for a candidate based on star approval.

Yet celebrity cachet has its place, some say.

“This is the most important election certainly in my lifetime. Celebrities can still draw the public’s attention to the race, even if they’re tired of it, and that’s important,” said L. Londell McMillan, a co-owner of the Source magazine, which brought together such luminaries as Queen Latifah, LL Cool J and film director Spike Lee at a Manhattan get-out-the-vote party Thursday.

Still, the public must make its decision in the polling booth under a barrage of information.

Sen. Barack Obama’s sophisticated, multi-million dollar infomercial was seen by about 23 million people Wednesday night, according to early Nielsen Media Research estimates; in comparison, the final presidential debate earlier this month drew 56 million viewers, the vice-presidential bout garnered 70 million.

Though some analysts criticized the 30-minute program for skipping over facts, others suggested it be nominated for an Emmy Award next year. Whether it gets Mr. Obama a “bounce” in Tuesday’s election has yet to be determined, however.

Meanwhile, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is a victim of “character assassination” by the TV networks, according to a Culture and Media Institute review of 69 news stories on ABC, NBC and CBS in the first two weeks of October. Thirty-seven of the reports were negative, 30 were neutral and only two were positive, the study found.

“Who is Sarah Palin? Not the Alaska governor with an 80 percent approval rating from her fellow citizens. Because of the relentlessly cartoonish network depictions, Mrs. Palin is perceived negatively by many Americans who had admired her before the media went to work on her,” said Robert Knight, director of the Virginia-based research group.

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