February 3, 2000

In the Public Interest?

What People Want to Know

There is a good deal of social science research now suggesting that people are not interested in learning about the inside baseball of politics, or being educated in the black arts of how to run campaigns. The survey data from this year tends to reinforce that. In October Americans told pollsters from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press that what they considered most important to learn about a future president was first, his honesty, second, how well he connected with people, and third his record. Subsequent data has tended to corroborate that people are not just saying what they think is socially acceptable. The discovery that Al Gore had feminist author Naomi Wolfe advising him on how to reach women voters had no impact on how voters felt about him, Pew research in December found. Conversely, people's view of John McCain was influenced by how he handled his experience in Vietnam and stories about his temper.