Urgent Issues, Buried in the Mud

Publication: The New York Times

Author: Clark Hoyt

10/11/2008 - The Caucus, the politics blog of The New York Times, convened a virtual roundtable of voters last Tuesday to discuss what they hoped to hear in the presidential debate that night. Turned off by negative campaigning, the voters said they wanted John McCain and Barack Obama to address issues like the economy and health care.

I just want to see the candidates debate the actual issues and how each would handle them so the public can decide,” said Joel Rittenhouse, a student at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. “I wish the smear campaigns could end and true debates could begin.”

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The public has told the media what it wants. Early this year, roughly three-quarters of voters of all political persuasions surveyed by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press said they wanted more coverage of the candidates’ stands on issues. For the most part, they were disappointed, and their satisfaction with the news media has declined, according to Pew. In February, 55 percent said the election coverage was good or excellent. By June, 54 percent said it was fair or poor.

The press needs “to do a better job of looking at what people say — provide more coverage of issues in a way that people can get it,” said Andrew Kohut, the Pew center’s director. He said he has been asking the same questions in surveys, and getting the same answers, for more than 20 years.

Read the full article Urgent Issues, Buried in the Mud on the New York Times' Web site.

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