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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 of California, Jonathan Carter, Eliot Cutler and Shawn Moody of Maine, David Bacon of New Mexico, Richard Mahoney of Arizona, Thomas Golisano of New York, Gary Richardson of Oklahoma, Tom Cox of Oregon, Tim Cahill of Massachusetts, Tom Horner of Minnesota, and Ed Thompson of Wisconsin all polling between 5 and 37 percent of the vote in their respective election campaigns. (CBS News 2010; Green Party Election Results; New York Times, 7 November 2002; St. Louis Post Dispatch, 7 November 2002; Third Party Watch). Moving beyond an analysis of presidential politics —where reporters may have more practical reasons for ignoring third-party challenges given that the Electoral College system virtually guarantees that only the Democrats or Republicans can win—is important because it allows this study to pursue other possible reasons to explain why these challengers from outside the existing political order are delegitimized. In addition, this study is unique because it is the first one to examine third-party gubernatorial candidates by using in-depth interviews with journalists, who are in the best position of all to explain why Greens, Libertarians and other minor parties are often sidelined. As such, the research questions are: • What practical reasons do reporters give to explain why they neglect to cover third-party gubernatorial candidates and do these reasons support Zaller’s Rule of Anticipated Importance at the state level? • What ideological factors, if any, may be at work that predispose reporters toward what they conceive as “mainstream” candidates? • What specific criteria do journalists say they use to decide which candidates to cover in a gubernatorial election? 6

Authors: Kirch, John.
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Turning a Blind Eye: Why Reporters Ignore Third-Party Candidates
of California, Jonathan Carter, Eliot Cutler and Shawn Moody of Maine, David Bacon of 
New Mexico, Richard Mahoney of Arizona, Thomas Golisano of New York, Gary 
Richardson of Oklahoma, Tom Cox of Oregon, Tim Cahill of Massachusetts, Tom 
Horner of Minnesota, and Ed Thompson of Wisconsin all polling between 5 and 37 
percent of the vote in their respective election campaigns.  (CBS News 2010; Green 
Party Election Results; New York Times, 7 November 2002; St. Louis Post Dispatch, 7 
November 2002; Third Party Watch).  Moving beyond an analysis of presidential politics
—where reporters may have more practical reasons for ignoring third-party challenges 
given that the Electoral College system virtually guarantees that only the Democrats or 
Republicans can win—is important because it allows this study to pursue other possible 
reasons to explain why these challengers from outside the existing political order are 
delegitimized.  In addition, this study is unique because it is the first one to examine 
third-party gubernatorial candidates by using in-depth interviews with journalists, who 
are in the best position of all to explain why Greens, Libertarians and other minor parties 
are often sidelined.
As such, the research questions are:
What practical reasons do reporters give to explain why they neglect to cover 
third-party gubernatorial candidates and do these reasons support Zaller’s 
Rule of Anticipated Importance at the state level?
What ideological factors, if any, may be at work that predispose reporters 
toward what they conceive as “mainstream” candidates?
What specific criteria do journalists say they use to decide which candidates to 
cover in a gubernatorial election?  

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