Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Senators say they lack name recognition because fewer home-state newspapers cover Congress

Morning Consult poll; click image for larger version
The fragmentation of the news media, leaving Congress less covered by regional newspapers, has caused a name-recognition problem for senators who were first elected recently and are seeking their first or second re-election this year, Paul Kane reports for The Washington Post.

"Partisans largely receive their news from ideologically driven cable news and social media," Kane writes. "Middle-of-the-road voters, reliant on their local news, are often left in the dark." While more reporters than ever are covering Congress, "They increasingly write for inside Washington publications whose readers are lawmakers, lobbyists and Wall Street investors," Kane reports. "A Pew Research Center study released earlier this year found that at least 21 states do not have a single dedicated reporter covering Congress."

North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who was first elected in 2004 but remains largely unknown by more than a fourth of his constituents, told Kane, “We go six years with no coverage. So it’s like you weren’t here for six years. Your name ID drops into the 40s.” The solution, he said, is to air $5 million worth of TV ads: “It pops right back up to the 80s.”

Jonathan Bernstein cites Kane's report in writing for Bloomberg News, "In the old days, a senator might hope to receive positive media coverage when he or she introduced the bill; when a committee held hearings; when the bill passed the Senate; when it cleared the final congressional hurdle; when it was signed into law; when the new program was funded (in a separate appropriations bill); when the hospital won a grant; at a ground-breaking ceremony; and at the ribbon-cutting when the construction was completed. Maybe a few more times, too. But now most of those steps are becoming invisible to most people in the district."

The poll numbers Kane cites are based on a national survey by Morning Consult, which is "not a perfect snapshot of the Senate races," he writes. "It uses online, opt-in surveys which are less reliable than the traditional methodology of calling a random sample of the population. Live interview surveys in some of the states produced varying levels of approval for these senators, but the similar thread in both forms of polling was a large bloc of voters not having an opinion of the senator’s job performance."

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