By: Dorothy Giobbe
BOB DOLE WON a solid victory in E&P’s quadrennial poll of newspaper endorsements by a margin of almost two-to-tone.
Out of 179 daily newspapers endorsing a presidential hopeful, Dole earned the support of 111 papers, President Bill Clinton garnered 65 endorsements, and Libertarian Party candidate Harry Brown won on e endrosement. Two other papers did not name their choice.
Dole won more newspapers, and when you add up their circulations, Dole outnumbered Clinton in terms of readers reached by the endorsement. The combined circulation of responding newspaper supporting Dole is 4,741,645, or 13.3% compared with 4,581, 337, or 73.7% of the sampling.
Of those uncommited, 166 or 27.8% of the poll, embraced a no-endorsement policy, for a total circulation of nearly 7 million.
The growing no-endorsement policy, mirrors a trend of declining voter participation in national elections.
Participants in E&P’s poll responded by postcard and in phone interviews. The total number of participants accounts for about a third of the nation’s 1,533 dailies, according to the Editor & Publisher International Year Book 1996.
The support for Dole signals that newspapers have reverted to a
time-honored practice of overwhelmingly supporting Republicans for the White House. That pattern was broken only twice since the poll began in 1940-in 1964, when more newspapers supported Barry Goldwater over Lyndon Johnson, and in 1992, when Clinton got more endorsements than George Bush.
From a publsiher’s perspective, Dole wins hands down. Where the boss of the business side made the endorsement decision, Dole won 66 times, to Clinton’s 20.
But where editorial boards collectively chose a candidate, the race was closer, with 40 endorsements for Dole, to 38 for Cintin.
Among individual editors responsible for endorsements, Dole was the favorite of 27, compared to Clinton’s 14.
Three papers in the poll endorsed Clinton in 1992, but opted for the Republican this year. They cited deep concern over ethical questions dogging the current administration, along with the white House’s lack of focus regarding important policy decisions.
As Andrew Reynolds, editor of the 53, 635-circulation Delaware County Daily Times in Primos, Pa., put it, “”We didn’t realize Clinton was such a sleaze-ball when we endorsed him four years ago.””
Reynolds said in his Sept. 25 editorial: “”More social programs. That’s exactly what this country needs. More handouts to more freeloaders. A foreign policy that’s an alien concept to the White House. Token interest in national security…That’s what four years of Bill Clinton has wrought. That’s the foundation upon which four more years of Bill Clinton will build.””
Similarly, Tom Bell, editor and publisher of the 4,600-circulation Chanute (Kan) Tribune, expressed disappointment with Clinton’s record after four years in the White House.
“I endorsed Clinton in 1992 largely because I thought Bush was ineffective, and Clinton gave us hope,”” Bell said. “”Our biggest problem with Clinton now is that he can’t be trusted, and I don’t think his word is good…Bottom line, Dole is the lesser of two evils. At least with Dole you know what you’re getting, and I know he’s good for his word.””
Dole also seems to benefit from favorite son status in his home state. The 7, 645-circulation Newton (Kan) Kansan picked Clinton four years ago, but supports Dole now.
“We have a keen interest in Bob Doles’s career, and that may have as much to do with it as anything else, “” said publisher Dougnals Anstaett. “”But, also the charater issue is a major concern to me, making promises and not fulfilling them, the flipflopping and the poll watching. There is a cloud of scandal hanging over the administration.
“In Dole’s case, he’s had the hatchetman label in the past, but both Republicans and Democrats in Washington believe that when he says he will do something they believe it, “”Anstaett added.
Only one paper in this year’s poll picked Clinton after supporting the Republican in 1992, and ther eversal largely results from a management change.
Mark Contreras, who has been publisher of the Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Times Leader for about 18 months, said, “”I’m not a bug-eyed zealot for Clintonn, but I’ve lived in Kansas for six years, and I was udnerwhelmed before [with Dole] and I’ve continued to be underwhelmed as the campaign has progressed.””
Both Dole and Clinton won endorsements from their “”hometown”” newspapers.
Alan B. Evans, the publisher of the Russell (Kan.) Daily News who has known Dole since 1950, says he has full confidence in his former Kiwanis Club colleague.
“We endorsed Bob Dole because he is an honorable person, and if there is any such thing as an honorable politician, he’s it,”” Evans said. “”We are very, very proud of him in Rusell. We argue editorially with him sometimes, but he is a very fine, capable and intelligent individual.””
In Arkansas, the Hope Star re-endorsed Clinton.
“Being partial, it’s his hometown, and we wouldn’t be behind anyone else,”” said publisher Ronnie Cupstid. “”President Clinton is good for Hope. Why put someone else in there who we don’t know anything about? The economy is doing well and Clinton’s done a good job.””
In a few Windy City, the Chicago Sun Times endorsed Clinton, and the Chicago Tribune backed Dole. In Atlanta, even though Cox Enterprises owns both papers, in accordance with editorial traditions, the Journal was expected to endorse Dole while the Constitution goes for Clinton.
In other two-newspaper towns, both went the same way. In the City of Brotherly Love, for instance, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News both support Clinton. Likewise, the Kingsport, Tenn., Daily News and Times-News support Dole.
Additionally, the Las Vegas Sun picked Clinton, as did the Newark Star-Ledger, and the Detroit Free-Press.
A lot of the larger papers had not made a choice as E&P went to press.
And How They decided*
DATE: Sat 16-Nov-1996
PUBLICATION: Editor & Publisher
SUBJECT: Presidential Endorsements
AUTHOR: Editorial Staff
LOCATION: Page 7
corrections presidential endorsements
AN ARTICLE ON presidential endorsements (Oct. 26, p. 7) incorrectly stated the position of the majority of newspapers in 1964. In fact, Lyndon Johnson won more endorsements than Barry Goldwater.