Many students feel they didn’t get the information they needed from local media
Preliminary results were presented two weeks ago from an ongoing study indicating researchers need to work with the media to make information for election ballots known.
Associate Professor Michele Moses, from the school of education at CU, and graduate student Lauren Saenz presented preliminary results from an ongoing study that started June on the quality of information coming from the media for voters. The preliminary results were presented Nov. 1 to Nov. 5 at the American Educational Studies Association conference in Spokane, Wash.
“By and large, (readers) couldn’t read anything about the actual initiatives,” Moses said.
Moses went on to say that there was a substantial amount of coverage on petitions and drives to get the initiative on a ballot, but there was a lack of substantive information, which would bring up moral and political issues that come with the initiatives.
The study focused on an affirmative action initiative on the ballot in Michigan, but the preliminary results from the study indicate the same issues of media coverage appear in other parts of the country, including college campuses.
“Generally, (college) students are missing information because the media did not provide it,” Moses said. “But college newspapers provide somewhat more meaningful information.”
Michigan’s affirmative action policy allowed the use of race and ethnicity as qualifying factors in college admission. The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, which passed Tuesday with 58 percent of the vote, eliminated the policy.
The preliminary results of the study found a lack of meaningful information for the general public in the media. Moses said that, while there are some people who can do in-depth research on a ballot initiative, it is common for the public to rely on media sources to inform them of the ballot measures.
The study began in June 2003 when Moses began collecting information from the newspapers in Michigan on the affirmative action policy that had recently been approved by the Supreme Court. In 2003, Grutter vs. Bollinger helped demonstrate that the amount of information provided to the public is an important factor in swaying support for an issue.
“Grutter vs. Bollinger helped show that the more meaningful, research-based information people have, the more likely they are to have a deeper understanding about the history, aims and educational benefits of affirmative action and support it,” Moses said.
Moses predicted the same thing could be happening in Colorado.
Although Referendum J and Amendment 39 on the Colorado ballot did not pass, there is no evidence that the amount of information given to the public had anything to do with that, because the amount of information voters had access to for these amendments were not a part of the study.
Some students agree with Moses that voters who wanted to make informed voting decisions had to do a certain amount of research on the candidates and initiatives in order to make an educated vote.
“When I went to vote, I didn’t really know that much about (the initiatives),” said senior anthropology major Naleen Mitchell. “I felt like there were a lot of attack ads. The information was out there, but most of it was pretty biased.”
Other students think there is always one issue or candidate each voter cares about or recognizes, and for everything else, they are not going to do a lot of research on the moral or political implications of the outcome of the election.
“I think that some (voters) were able to (make educated decisions on) issues they really looked into it, but the majority did not,” said sophomore international affairs major Adam Gray, who did not vote this year.
A lot of people have priorities when it comes to initiatives to research and vote on, Gray added, which could potentially lead to uneducated decisions on other initiatives and candidates on the ballot.