A good test of the power of newspaper endorsements may be the slots referendum in Maryland. A Washington Post poll conducted between October 16 and October 20 found support for slots at 62 percent, with 36 percent opposed. Since then, the editorial boards of the Post, the Washington Times, The (Annapolis) Capital, the Easton Star-Democrat, and several other papers have come out against the referendum, while The (Baltimore) Sun wrote an editorial reversing their long-standing opposition to slots. However, reading the Sun editorial, it seems their hearts aren’t totally in it.
And since then, the race has tightened, according to a Zogby poll, which has opposition at 47.5 percent and support at 44.6 percent. It’s worth noting, however, that the Zogby poll was for Stop Slots Maryland.
I feel like voters may be more likely to trust editorial boards on an issue like slots. Why? Two reasons:
- The legalization of slot machines, at least in Maryland, isn’t really an ideological issue. Lots of liberals support it, lots of them oppose it. Ditto with conservatives. So people aren’t expecting the Post to toe the Democratic party line or the Times to toe the Republican party line because there is no party line. This eliminates – or at least weakens – charges of bias.
- It’s sort of a confusing issue. The claims being made by both sides are contradictory and it can be hard to make sense of them. The average voter doesn’t have time to figure out who has the right numbers between the UMBC and DLS studies. But they realize the editorial boards do.