Meet John Doe: Are endorsements important to you when you vote?

July 24, 2014

Paul Gorski

Paul Gorski

By Paul Gorski

Mike Frerichs, Democratic candidate for Illinois State Treasurer (http://frerichsforillinois.com/), was recently endorsed by the Illinois Education Association (IEA), the IEA endorsement noting that Frerichs has been a “strong and consistent proponent for eliminating the significant and unfair disparities in state funding for school districts.” However, unless you are on a press release e-mail list as I am, you might have missed that news.

Even though I am involved in politics, my focus is primarily local. My schedule does not allow me to attend many political events, but I do try to research the candidates. I met Frerichs by chance just after his IEA endorsement in Rockford, and I wondered then how the average voter was going learn about the endorsement and whether it mattered to the average voter. Not only this endorsement, but all endorsements.

Unions, chambers of commerce and business associations often endorse candidates. Do these endorsements influence you? Given the relatively low voter turnout we have for some elections, one assumption might be “no, endorsements do not influence voters.” However, a 2011 study “Media Bias and Influence: Evidence from Newspaper Endorsements” (http://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/14445.html) indicated that endorsements by newspapers can influence voters when those voters feel the newspaper is neutral and offering an unbiased endorsement.

The study quoted above was limited to newspaper endorsements, but it is interesting that the study found the voters making value judgments about the newspapers’ neutrality. Do we make the same judgments when a union or business association endorses a candidate?

I do know that endorsement events make for nice nightly news sound bites, and flash your face in front of the public. When it comes down to it, free publicity is probably the main benefit to the candidate. You may forget about an endorsement but remember the candidate’s name. Remember the name, contact the candidate and come to your own conclusion.

Paul Gorski (paul@paulgorski.com) is a Cherry Valley Township resident who also authors the Tech-Friendly column seen in this newspaper.

Posted July 24, 2014

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