Shorenstein Poll Shows Many Voters Are Still Disengaged

Over 70 percent say U.S. politics is 'pretty disgusting'

Even at the height of the primary season, a majority of Americans said they were not paying close attention to the presidential campaign, according to a poll released yesterday by the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

The poll, part of the center's "Vanishing Voter" project, shows that only 13 percent of Americans were paying "a great deal of attention" and another 18 percent "quite a bit" of attention to the race in the week before the March 7 Super Tuesday primaries. The poll was conducted March 1 through 5.

More than 70 percent of respondents agreed with a poll question that "politics in America is generally pretty disgusting."

Marvin Kalb, the executive director of the Shorenstein Center's Washington office and co-director of the Vanishing Voter project, said that the poll results showed that Arizona Sen. John S. McCain's candidacy grabbed voters' attention.

"Starting in January there was a definite increase in interest," Kalb said. "That increase in interest rose rather dramatically after the New Hampshire primary...for a period of about three weeks until Super Tuesday. When it became clear that the two candidates were going to be Bush and Gore and that McCain and Bradley were pulling out, interest began to fall rapidly."

Tami S. Buhr, research coordinator for the Shorenstein Center, said the low numbers have to be looked at in perspective.

"Our polls are nationwide," she said. "The way the nomination process works, it's the opposite--a series of sequential elections. The level of turnout in these states show it was an exciting campaign when it got to your state, but nationwide, it still wasn't exciting."

Across the nation, 55 percent of those polled called the campaign "boring," while only 25 percent thought it was "exciting."