Most '92 voters say they were better informed on issues than in '88, poll shows

November 15, 1992|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- Citing a variety of reasons, most voters sa that they were better informed about the issues facing the United States in the 1992 presidential race than they were during the 1988 campaign, according to a post-election survey to be released today.

The presidential debates, independent candidate Ross Perot's "infomercials" and better news media coverage all helped contribute to the impression, shared by 59 percent of the electorate, that there was a greater focus on the issues this year than there has been in previous campaigns, the poll found.

The survey by the Times Mirror Center for People and the Press showed that an even larger majority, 77 percent, believed that they had learned enough about the candidates and their positions to make an informed decision and cast their ballots with confidence this year. By contrast, only 59 percent of the voters expressed a similar degree of confidence in a post-election poll taken four years ago.

For all the talk about voter anger, "the American electorate feels better about itself and better about the campaign process than it did four years ago," the survey report said. "A large part of the increased satisfaction . . . appears to be related to a feeling among voters that 'issues' played an important role in the campaign."

The nationwide survey of 1,012 voters was conducted Nov. 5-8; it has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The survey found that a majority of Americans believed that the candidates were treated fairly by the press, although fewer believed that applied to President Bush than to Democrat Bill Clinton.

According to the poll, 61 percent thought Mr. Bush had been treated fairly by the news media, while 77 percent thought that was the case for Mr. Clinton. Coverage of Mr. Perot was rated fair and balanced by 67 percent of those questioned.

Despite those responses, the survey found that opinions of the quality of the news media's election coverage remain fairly low.

Asked to grade the news media's performance on a scale of A to F, with A being best, only 36 percent of the voters gave the news media an A or a B. The coverage was given a C grade by 39 percent, and 31 percent gave the news media a D or an F.

The 36 percent A or B rating represented a slight increase from 1988, when only 30 percent of the voters gave the news media those marks for their election coverage.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the election's outcome, twice as many Democrats as Republicans gave the news media an A or B.

The survey found that in forming their opinions of the candidates, voters, by a margin of 74 percent to 22 percent, said that they relied far less on campaign commercials than on news media coverage, interviews and the presidential debates.

There was one significant exception to this: Mr. Perot's series of lengthy "infomercials," which 55 percent said were the "most informative" commercials of the campaign.

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