03/25/2004 - The long general election campaign begins with voters paying much more attention than usual and a decidedly greater number of Americans thinking that it matters who wins in the fall than felt that way four years ago. However, roughly half of Americans already say the campaign is too long, "boring" and "too negative."
More than six-in-ten Americans (63%) think it really matters more who wins the 2004 presidential election this year, compared with 45% who expressed that view in June 2000. The increase is most notable among Democrats (68%, up from 46% in 2000), but growing numbers of Republicans and independents also believe it really matters who wins in the fall (Republicans up 16%, independents 15%).
Despite the public's sense of the stakes in this year's election, many Americans already perceive that the candidates have gone too negative. Fully 48% think that Kerry has been too personally critical of President Bush, while 33% say Bush has been too personally critical of Kerry. The latest Pew Research Center national poll of 1,703 Americans, conducted March 17-21, finds that nearly half of the public (47%) believes that, in general, the campaign is too negative. Republicans are somewhat more critical of the early tone of the campaign than are Democrats 50% of Republicans say it has been too negative compared with 43% of Democrats
A separate Pew survey of 1,065 Americans, conducted March 22-24, shows that criticisms lodged by former White House counter-terrorism aide Richard Clarke are drawing significant public interest. About four-in-ten Americans (42%) say they have heard "a lot" about Clarke's claim that the president ignored serious warnings prior to the Sept. 11 attacks and 47% say they have heard "a little" about his claims. Just 10% say they have heard nothing at all about Clarke's criticisms. The story is attracting comparable levels of interest among Republicans and Democrats.
Read the full report Far More Voters Believe Election Outcome Matters on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.