Poll Shows Voters Dislike Attack-Oriented Campaigns

By Melanie Arter | July 7, 2008 | 8:28 PM EDT

(CNSNews.com) - A new poll on politics indicates eight in 10 voters view negative, attack-oriented campaigning as unethical and damaging to the American democracy.

The Institute for Global Ethics conducted the survey as part of its Project on Campaign Conduct.

"Citizens want candidates to show leadership. They are frustrated with what they see in politics," Dale Lawton, director of IGE's Project on Campaign Conduct, said Wednesday. "A healthy democracy depends on drawing distinctions between opposing candidates for office, but there are certain types of criticism that are considered out of bounds."

Since September 11th, 75 percent of voters think it's more important to do away with negative attacks in politics, said the report.

According to the survey, three in five voters (61 percent) surveyed say questioning an opponent's patriotism or support for the president (60 percent) is unfair. Three quarters (76 percent) say it's unfair to criticize an opponent for not having served in the military.

Also, nine in 10 voters polled want candidates to participate in public debates and in forums where the public can question them directly.

Calling attention to the actions of an opponent's family is considered off-limits among 89 percent of voters, as well as criticizing past personal problems such as marital issues (57 percent) and alcohol or marijuana abuse (69 percent), personal past financial troubles (81 percent), and criticisms about financing one's own campaign (76 percent).

A candidate's voting record is considered fair game among 68 percent of voters, as well as criticizing an opponent for talking one way and voting another (71 percent), accepting contributions from people with ethical problems (53 percent), and taking contributions from special interests (57 percent).

An overwhelming majority believe candidates should sign a non-partisan code of conduct, while two-thirds of those polled say the candidate's willingness to sign a code would be an important factor in their decision-making process, and a majority say that candidates publicly signing a code and following through on it would make them go out and vote.

"American voters want cleaner, issue-oriented campaigns," said Lawton. "Codes of conduct can provide a framework for candidates to engage in fair and vigorous debate and begin to reengage the public.

"And when that happens, more people are likely to vote, and we think that's a good thing," he said.

IGE's Project on Campaign Conduct will contact candidates in 40 congressional districts in 19 states and encourage them to sign a code of campaign conduct to run clean, honest campaigns. Those states include: California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

The poll was conducted by telephone among 800 likely voters from June 6-11, 2002 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

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