While voters were casting their ballots in the New Hampshire primary the night of Feb. 9, Kirk was organizing a focus group of likely South Carolina primary voters for CNN. The takeaway? Above all else, voters are angry.
“On a panel of nearly 70 likely voters, 62 said that yes, they were angry, but they were all angry about different things,” Kirk says. “Some were angry about social security, others about national security – they were all over the board. So that was a really strong finding.”
The word “liar” has increasingly been flung around between the candidates since New Hampshire, and Kirk’s polling reveals why.
“I also asked them if they care whether candidates are truthful and would they vote against a candidate who wasn’t truthful,” Kirk adds. “They all said that yes, they did care about truthfulness, and yes, they’d vote against a dishonest candidate. But they also said it’s very difficult to sort out fact from fiction. They felt there was so much political wrangling – the noise was so high – they couldn’t make good determinations about who was telling the truth.
“The big thing is, truth is the victim in this election,” Kirk concludes.
Kirk is SMU professor of communication studies and director of the Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility who can discuss:
- sound bite substance
- undecided voters
- presidential debates
- the use of second screens and social media in politics
- political communications