- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The race for the White House is trumping sports and Hollywood: More Americans are looking forward to the 2008 presidential election than they are the Summer Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Series or the Academy Awards, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

An eager 70 percent of us are “especially looking forward” to Nov. 4, or Election Day — compared with 52 percent who anticipate the Olympics, scheduled to begin Aug. 8 in Beijing.

“The public is looking forward to the presidential election much more than several other major events in 2008,” the survey said.

Super Bowl XLII — the big kickoff is in 26 days — only drew the interest of 49 percent of the respondents. Baseball and the silver screen fared worse, though: The World Series lagged behind with 38 percent, and Oscar night languished in last place with 34 percent.

“The public is under the impression that the election is very entertaining, thanks to the news media,” said Tyler Gray, a senior editor of Radar magazine, which charts the highs and lows of celebrities, politics and otherwise.

“All the coverage I saw of the Iowa primaries had every correspondent ending their bit saying, ‘this is so exciting’ or ‘the race has never been like this,’ doing their best to sell drama, not report news,” Mr. Gray said. “I didn’t find Iowa entertaining. And it’s troubling that the networks treat the preliminary events like the actual election. Iowa and New Hampshire are important, but they’re not the real deal.”

Indeed, broadcasters address primaries like an elaborate dress rehearsal for Election Day. MSNBC alone, for example, will have 21 reporters and analysts covering the action in New Hampshire today. That’s four more than the total number of first-in-the-nation voters who were to cast their historic ballots in Dixville Notch early this morning.

Journalists also tend to favor political players who seem to have a grasp on dramatic urgency and play into press predictions, according to some.

“They reward candidates who ‘beat expectations’ and shove aside those who underwhelm them. The whole spectacle displays how the media greedily grasp for more power than the voters in picking our presidents,” observed L. Brent Bozell III of the Alexandria-based Media Research Center.

“Heightened attention to the election this early is no accident,” Mr. Gray said. “The coverage is more about personality, not facts or issues. Personality is an infinite source for drama, which draws viewers. So it’s no wonder that the public is more excited about the elections than they are the Oscars.”

There are degrees of interest, however. The Pew survey also revealed a partisan divide: 82 percent of Democratic respondents were anticipating the presidential election, compared with 66 percent of Republicans.

The survey of 1,430 adults was conducted Dec. 19-30 and has a margin of error of five percentage points.

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