Spotlight Exclusives

New Polling: Poverty Too Little Discussed in 08, by Tom Freedman and John Bridgeland

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Earlier this year, we released a study that showed a dramatic increase in the number of news stories about poverty during this presidential election cycle. In that study, “Issue on the Rise: Media Coverage of Poverty in Politics,” we found a 145% increase in the number of times the media mentioned poverty in the context of stories about the primary campaigns. We speculated that the media was responding to frequent mentions of the issue by presidential candidates, an increase in interest in the issue by evangelicals, and an increasing desire by voters to see the problem of poverty addressed in America.

This week, we released new polling sponsored by this web site,, that shows voters still want to hear even more. The study of likely and registered American voters, conducted by McLaughlin & Associates and led by Republican pollster Jim McLaughlin, demonstrates that voters want to hear more about poverty from their candidates and they want the media to cover the topic more. When we asked likely voters for the 2008 presidential campaign, “Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: The media has spent an adequate amount of time during the presidential campaign covering the issue of how to fight poverty in the U.S.,۪” we found that 56% disagreed, 41.2% of those strongly disagreed. The desire to hear more also cut across different demographic groups. Even among Republicans and Democrats the answers were similar a majority of each felt there hadn۪t been adequate amount of time spent on the topic.

Likely voters also wanted to hear more from their candidates about the problems of poverty and how to solve them, and it wasn’t just one party. Again more than half, 51.4% of those questioned believed they had not heard enough during the presidential campaign about what needs to be done to fight poverty, with a sizeable percentage of conservatives — more than 46% — joining a majority of liberals and moderates to say they have not heard enough on the issue.

In past polling, we’ve found voters eager to have the problem of poverty addressed. With increased media coverage and more explicit discussions of the problem by candidates, voters seem to be getting more of the information they want, but this polling shows there is still a desire by the public to hear more.

Shortly, we۪ll put the results for the questions on our site but we wanted to share this exciting news with you quickly. The bottom line is we’ve had more discussion this election cycle about a renewed focus on poverty than many campaigns in our recent past. Voters seem to be applauding that, and they are eager to hear more.

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