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The Town Crier and the importance of editorial endorsements

November 27, 2008
Q: What was the largest newspaper in the state of California to endorse Proposition 8?
A: The Los Altos Town Crier

On October 22, our hometown paper joined the Paradise Post (circulation: 8,000) as only the second paper in the state of California to endorse Proposition 8.  The Town Crier’s circulation of 16,500 made it the largest newspaper in the state in favor of the measure, a distinction it held through election day.

Given that the opposition of almost every other paper in the state opposed it yet the measure still passed, it seems that either newspapers don’t have quite the influence they think they do, or that the Town Crier has a lot more influence than we thought.
My guess is that the truth is somewhere in between.  Blog-hero Nate Silver, as usual, probably got this one right:
When you’re voting for Dog Commissioner, and you have no information about the candidates, you might well go with whomever your local paper decides to endorse.  In a race like Obama-McCain [or a 14-word measure like Prop. 8], on the other hand, you already have all the information you could ever want, and probably have established a fairly strong preference for yourself.
Precinct-by-precinct results are yet to come out, but the Town Crier’s endorsement in local elections seems to be pretty crucial to a candidate’s hopes: the five candidates they endorsed this year all won election.  At the same time, the electorate probably can make up its own mind about its feelings on things like children’s hospitals and veterans’ services.
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