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November 16, 2006
Dennis Wharton
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Nationwide Poll Shows Broad Approval for Broadcast Election Coverage

--Nielsen Says Broadcast News Outlets Grabbed Nearly Four Times as Many Viewers as Cable News Nets on Election Night--

WASHINGTON, DC - An overwhelming majority of American adults believe local broadcasters provided "the right amount" or "too much" time covering the 2006 elections, according to a nationwide poll of 1,007 Americans. Bolstering the claim that Americans approve of broadcast election coverage were the Nielsen ratings for election night, which showed that 23 million Americans relied on broadcast election coverage provided by ABC, CBS and NBC during the 10 o'clock hour. The figure is nearly four times greater than the 6.1 million combined viewers of CNN, Fox News and MSNBC during the same hour.

In a nationwide poll, conducted November 3 - 5 by APCO Insight, 1,007 American adults were surveyed on their views related to election coverage provided by local radio and television stations. The poll, commissioned by NAB, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percent.

Among the poll's key findings:

  • Fifty percent of adults believe local broadcasters are providing "too much time" covering the elections, while 37 percent say local stations are providing "about the right amount" of coverage. Only 10 percent of Americans think broadcasters are providing "too little time" covering elections;
  • Local broadcast coverage of elections, whether in the form of news reports or candidate debates, was viewed by 30 percent of Americans as the "most helpful" factor in selecting a candidate, compared to 14 percent of adults who picked cable TV news coverage and 21 percent who selected newspaper coverage. Paid radio and TV advertising was listed by six percent of poll respondents as the "most helpful" factor in selecting a candidate;
  • By an overwhelming margin - 70 percent to 23 percent - poll respondents oppose government-mandated free airtime for political candidates;
  • By more than a 2-1 margin, Americans believe that if political candidates were offered government mandated free airtime they would use the time for ads attacking their opponents (67 percent) as opposed to informing the public on issues through speeches, forums and debates (26 percent);
  • By a 3-1 margin, poll respondents reject the suggestion that political candidates would raise less money (23 percent) if they did not have to pay for political advertising. Instead, they believe candidates would "continue raising money, and spend it on something else," (69 percent) the poll found.

Results of the 2006 poll are consistent with previous polls commissioned by NAB related to perceptions of broadcast coverage of elections, according to Bill Dalbec, senior vice president, APCO Insight.

"Americans continue to strongly believe that local broadcasters are doing a good job covering elections. These findings are almost unchanged from a poll conducted two years ago and have remained remarkably consistent since we begin asking these questions six years ago," said Dalbec.

During the 10 o'clock hour on election night, Nielsen ratings showed ABC's election coverage garnered 8.7 million viewers. NBC and CBS had an audience of 7.2 million and 7.1 million viewers, respectively. That compared to a combined viewership of 6.1 million for CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC during the same hour.

About NAB
The National Association of Broadcasters is a trade association that advocates on behalf of more than 8,300 free, local radio and television stations and also broadcast networks before Congress, the Federal Communications Commission and the Courts. Information about NAB can be found at

APCO Insight
Interviewing: November 3-5, 2006
N = 1,007 adults 18+ years of age
Margin of error = ± 3.1 percentage points

1) How do you feel about the amount of time broadcast TV and radio stations spend reporting on political campaigns, debates, and the issues? Is it too little time, too much time, or about the right amount of time?

2) Election Day is this coming Tuesday. In deciding for whom you might vote, which ONE of the following was MOST helpful?

3) Some groups in Washington, D.C. are proposing that local broadcast radio and television stations be forced by the government to give free air time to political candidates to use as they wish. This time would be in addition to candidates continuing to buy as many paid political commercials as their campaigns could afford. Do you support or oppose the proposal to mandate that local radio and TV stations give politicians free air time?

4) If politicians are given government-mandated free airtime on local radio and television stations, how do you think that time would most likely be used?

5) If political candidates did not have to pay for advertising on radio and television stations, do you think they would:


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