In case you were wondering, we’re not going to tell you how you should vote.
It’s been a longstanding policy here at The Courier. Traditionally we have not endorsed political candidates at any level.
We seem to get more company every election cycle. Many newspapers have stopped making endorsements, citing doubts about their impact and fears that in a polarized era endorsements put the credibility of the paper’s political coverage at risk.
We have certainly been accused of bias from both sides of the political spectrum. Even issues that seem clear cut to one voter may be perceived differently by another. And that’s each voter’s prerogative.
We expect that to continue and probably increase.
Some newspapers are adamant about the importance of the candidate endorsement and feel it’s a duty to furnish them.
But more and more, we feel they are resented more than welcomed. Oftentimes, they are perceived as insulting, fostering further resentment among more people than they would ever influence.
And their influence has been questioned a lot over the past couple of decades.
A 2008 Pew Research Center for People and the Press survey found nearly 70 percent of responders said newspaper endorsements had no impact on their vote, and they were slightly more likely to be swayed by an endorsement from Oprah Winfrey or their minister, priest or rabbi.
We suspect that percentage has increased over the past decade. We’re certain that political polarization has.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote about newspaper endorsements in her 2000 book, “Everything You Think You Know About Politics and Why You’re Wrong.”
“The direct effect of (candidate endorsement) editorials does not appear to be significant enough to find,” Jamieson said. “The effect of newspaper endorsements is largely created through advertising about them that is sponsored by the candidate.”
Simply put, a newspaper endorsement basically gives one candidate more campaign fodder for advertising — most likely by paying for broadcast ads.
Do we need any more of that?
For generations, newspapers have been explaining the difference between the opinion pages and the news pages. However, a percentage of readers will always believe endorsements show a newspaper’s coverage will be biased in favor of the candidate they are endorsing.
In general, newspaper editorial boards meet separately from the rest of the newsroom, and an editorial board endorsement should have no effect on news coverage. But it’s a perception that has never really been overcome.
It is a shame political polarization has led many to blur what we see as clear and separate missions of the news pages and the opinion pages. However, we have long felt candidate endorsements are a bit too presumptuous. We feel the same way today — perhaps with an even greater intensity.
We are always interested in ideas, strategies and actions. We believe our enthusiasm, or disappointment, for any particular candidate or issue tends to be exposed in editorials throughout the year or leading up to an election.
We will continue to editorialize on political issues and stances of candidates. We will always urge you to vote. We will not, however, tell you which candidate you should vote for.
Of course, we hope it’s an informed vote. And that’s what we will continue to strive to do: Inform you on important issues, especially at the local and state level, so you can feel confident in your vote.