Help us help you become an informed voter

When you're deciding how to vote, where do you go for information?

I'd like to think it's the local newspaper, but I'm biased. That's why we're asking people around Nevada for their opinions on the best sources for information about political campaigns and candidates.

The Nevada Press Association, which represents the state's daily and weekly newspapers, is hosting an online survey at I urge you to visit the Web site and spend about 15 minutes answering the questions there.

The survey started running last month, and we'll keep it going until we get a good cross-section of responses around Nevada.

I'll share a few of the results to date, so you have a better idea of the questions being asked.

- Asked about issues, 81 percent are saying the economy is "very important" to them. The war in Iraq is "very important" to 53 percent of respondents.

- Which source of political information do people find most offensive? A phone call from the candidate's campaign is leading at 47 percent.

- Here's something that's not a surprise to me, a former newspaper editor: Sixty percent of the people taking the survey say they "always" or "frequently" read the letters to the editor.

- So far, the split on the survey is almost exactly even between Republicans and Democrats, plus a good number who listed themselves as independent.

Why are we doing this?

The Battle Born state is a battleground state in presidential politics, drawing unprecedented national attention early this year with party caucuses and a flood of candidate visits. It will remain a key state right up to election night when the votes are counted.

As we know from voter registrations and past elections (and confirmed by the survey results above), Nevadans are fairly evenly divided between the two political parties. There is a healthy number of independent voters, and even those who identify with a party tend to vote for the person rather than the affiliation " especially when it comes to local elections.

I think that means many Nevadans remain open-minded and inquisitive about issues and candidates. They want to know more before they give away a thing as valuable as their vote.

So, what influences them? Where do they turn for the information they want? What is the best way to reach them? How can they get more of the information they are seeking? That's what we're trying to find out.

Press associations in several other states have done similar surveys, but there's never been one like this in Nevada. We're doing it online because ... well, I personally don't like to be interrupted with a phone call, either at home or at work, from somebody conducting a survey. This is more convenient and less obtrusive.

It also means, however, that you need to actually go to the web site to participate. Did I mention we'll be giving away three "vacation getaways" in a drawing, and that Pulse Research has a national drawing for $1,000?

Give us 15 minutes. Give us your honest opinions. I promise to call only if you win something.

Barry Smith is executive director of the Nevada Press Association. Details about the NPA and the survey are available at


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