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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
Unformatted Document Text:  Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates mainstream, (3) appeal to a broad demographic group, and (4) are likely to affect the election outcome. Zaller (1999) developed a broader theory to explain the dearth of third-party news coverage at the presidential level. Under his “Rule of Anticipated Importance,” Zaller argued that reporters will only expend limited journalistic resources on stories they believe will carry some importance in the future. When it comes to national election campaigns, Zaller says, this means that it is the reporter’s job to focus attention only on candidates that have a realistic chance of winning. Journalists make this determination, Zaller says, by examining such factors as a candidate’s public and financial support, charisma, and ability to give a good speech. Each of these studies contributes greatly to our understanding of the challenges third-party presidential candidates face when they mount national campaigns, but they leave a gap in the literature when it comes to minor parties at the state level. Filling this gap is important because third parties have had greater success in state politics than they have had running for president. While no candidate from a minor party has ever occupied the White House, independent and third-party contenders have won thirteen gubernatorial elections in the 20 th century, including contests in Minnesota in 1930, 1932, 1934, 1936, and 1998; Wisconsin in 1934, 1936, and 1942; Alaska and Connecticut in 1990; and Maine in 1974, 1994, and 1998 (Gillespie 1993; Gold 2002; Reiter and Walsh 1994; Third Party Watch 2005). 2 Moreover, minor-party and independent gubernatorial candidates have made some inroads in recent years, with such nominees as Peter Camejo 2 This list is limited to candidates who did not use fusion to win an election. 5

Authors: Kirch, John.
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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
mainstream, (3) appeal to a broad demographic group, and (4) are likely to affect the 
election outcome.
Zaller (1999) developed a broader theory to explain the dearth of third-party news 
coverage at the presidential level.  Under his “Rule of Anticipated Importance,” Zaller 
argued that reporters will only expend limited journalistic resources on stories they 
believe will carry some importance in the future.  When it comes to national election 
campaigns, Zaller says, this means that it is the reporter’s job to focus attention only on 
candidates that have a realistic chance of winning.  Journalists make this determination, 
Zaller says, by examining such factors as a candidate’s public and financial support, 
charisma, and ability to give a good speech.  
Each of these studies contributes greatly to our understanding of the challenges 
third-party presidential candidates face when they mount national campaigns, but they 
leave a gap in the literature when it comes to minor parties at the state level.  Filling this 
gap is important because third parties have had greater success in state politics than they 
have had running for president.  While no candidate from a minor party has ever 
occupied the White House, independent and third-party contenders have won thirteen 
gubernatorial elections in the 20
th
 century, including contests in Minnesota in 1930, 1932, 
1934, 1936, and 1998; Wisconsin in 1934, 1936, and 1942; Alaska and Connecticut in 
1990; and Maine in 1974, 1994, and 1998 (Gillespie 1993; Gold 2002; Reiter and Walsh 
1994; Third Party Watch 2005).
  Moreover, minor-party and independent gubernatorial 
candidates have made some inroads in recent years, with such nominees as Peter Camejo 
2
 This list is limited to candidates who did not use fusion to win an election.
5


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