Many political candidates covet the endorsement of the Palm Beach Post. Others believe it’s really not that helpful. Just how valuable is the “blessing” of Post editors? Is their endorsement necessary for victory at the polls?
BIZPAC has done some studies and surveys over the years about the power and importance of political endorsements by the Post.
The Post’s “win rate” or record of success with its endorsements is actually quite unimpressive. For example, in the most recent election of 2010, the Post’s win rate was awful in comparison with other major newspapers in Florida, especially in the Primary. In a head-to-head match-up in the Primary against the Florida Times Union, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sun Sentinel, the St. Pete Times, The Tallahassee Democrat, and the Tampa Tribune, (excluding municipal races), the Post had the worst win-loss record of all these newspapers. Only 43% of the Post’s endorsed candidates won. The newspaper with the best win rate was the Sun Sentinel, with 86%. It’s plain that the Post’s endorsement is not critical for a candidate to win.
The Post has a better record in General elections, but that’s common; there are more unknown political newcomers in primaries, which makes candidate picking more difficult.
In fairness, two points should be made. First, the Post claims they don’t try to pick a winner when they endorse. That may or may not be true, but certainly the Post chooses candidates that fit in with their political agenda, and sometimes these are “fringe” candidates who don’t appeal to mainstream voters. Second, such studies do not show whether the Post’s endorsement pushes a candidate into the “win” column when a candidate would have lost without the endorsement. In other words, they don’t show how many points the Post endorsement can move an election result.
The Post has little influence in higher profile races, and some influence in lesser known races, depending on several factors. News coverage of races, and how a candidate is depicted in news stories, has more impact than editorial endorsements. The impact of the Post has diminished in recent years, because a diminishing fraction of voters read their editorial pages and because voters have come to rely more on other influences.
Post endorsements are less likely to be influential in a Primary than in a General election. Primary voters are motivated voters, and general election voters are less knowledgeable and more easily influenced. The Post is more likely to be influential in obscure or “down-ballot” races.
Democrats are more likely to pay attention to Post endorsements than Republicans. Conservatives of both parties usually do not trust the Post to arrive at objective endorsements, due to the paper’s political agenda. In a Republican primary, an endorsement often actually hurts the candidate. When both parties are voting in a race, an endorsement probably helps with Democratic voters while Republicans (especially those who have some knowledge of politics) pay little heed to it.
The impact of Post endorsements differs significantly, depending on where voters live in the county. Post circulation is minimal in South County, so its influence is very low and it is widely ignored in Boca Raton and Delray Beach. In central and northern county, its influence is greater, especially with Democrats.
While our studies and surveys are interesting and informative, the data makes a conclusive point: the Post’s endorsement of a candidate is not essential to winning an election.