from staff reports



Newspaper endorsements of political candidates have little effect on the
outcome of local elections except possibly when races are close, UT
journalism professors said Thursday.

Most studies show that conversations with knowledgeable friends are the
most important influences in voting, not newspaper editorials, assistant
professor Dan Foley said.

"Newspaper endorsements may not have much influence, but if you get a close
race, a small difference of only a few percentage points might make a
difference," Foley said. "So a poll or an endorsement editorial could
change the outcome of a close election."

Mark Miller agreed with Foley.

"The research shows they (newspaper endorsements) don't have much impact on
U.S. presidential races, but they may have a lot of impact on lower level
races for school board, state representatives and things like when people
don't have a lot of information and rely on media endorsements."

Foley is researching the subject for a paper he is writing on factors that
affect how people vote for local judges.

"For instance, if you had a lawyer friend who says a judge is good, that
would probably be the main influence," Foley said.

While newspaper and bar association polls rank behind what friends had to
say in terms of influence on voters, they do have an impact, Foley
said.

In the case of elected judges, Foley found that newspapers usually write
editorials only when a bar association poll gives the candidate a negative
rating.

Foley, who has written endorsement editorials while working at newspapers,
said some candidates can benefit from endorsement of the opposition if the
newspaper lacks credibility. He also said that the endorsements are at
least important enough for candidates, especially new candidates, to seek
them.