Do political endorsements have the power to sway votes?

Published On: Nov 02 2012 06:08:13 PM CDT   Updated On: Nov 02 2012 06:27:05 PM CDT
LA CROSSE, Wis -- -

It's the home stretch of the campaign season and candidates are scrambling to pick up every last vote.

One way they hope to, is through endorsements.

They're a common part of every election, but how much of an impact do they have on people's decisions?

It's hard to measure what impact endorsements really have at the polls, but some say it all comes down to just how prepared voters feel when it's time to cast their ballot.

Holmen resident Diva Antony said she thinks endorsements carry a lot of weight with voters.

"I think they are a lot of the deciding factor for a lot of people," said Antony.

Some say it doesn't affect their decisions but others say it depends on what kind of endorsement it is.

"I think newspaper endorsements play a role, celebrity endorsements not so much," said La Crosse resident George Singh.

Political science professor Joe Heim said among the three different types of political endorsements, newspapers, groups, and well-known individuals, newspapers may have the greatest impact on state races.

"I think newspaper endorsements can sway the last minute undecided voter. Believe it or not a lot of people don't focus on the elections until the last week or two," said Heim.

"I find myself going over the newspaper now to figure out who I'm going to vote for," said Viroqua resident Bethany Stamm.

Wisconsin U.S. Senate seat candidate Tommy Thompson, Wisconsin 32nd District Senate candidate Jennifer Shilling, and Congressman Ron Kind have all received endorsements from the La Crosse Tribune.

But Heim said endorsements from newspapers are not the only ones that may play a role in someone's vote. Groups that draw the loyalty of single-issue voters may also have an impact.

"Maybe they haven't payed much attention, but if the National Rifle Association endorses a particular candidate surprise or often times just being a member of the organization is a deciding factor for them," said Heim.

While endorsements may affect some people's votes, Heim said it's limited.

"All in all when you're talking about a single factor it doesn't swing 5-10 percent of the vote. You're talking about a relatively small number that may be swayed by any given editorial," said Heim.

When it comes to the third kind of political endorsement, well-known individuals, Heim said they usually don't have a big impact because it's usually pretty obvious who will endorse who.

But when it comes as a surprise it does have potential to turn some heads.

Most newspapers endorse candidates in an election season, but some decide not to.

This year, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which endorsed Gov. Scott Walker in the recall election, decided to not endorse any candidates this year.