Swift Boat Vets owe much to cable TV, talk radio


Geraldine Sealey
August 20, 2004 9:48PM (UTC)

The initial ad buy for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth only reached three states, but the media coverage of the anti-Kerry group's ad and allegations, especially on cable TV and talk radio, has fueled awareness, the National Annenberg Election Survey says. In a new poll, NAES says more than half of the country has heard about or seen the ad. (Thirty-three percent report having seen it and 24 percent say they've heard about it.) NAES polled 2,209 respondents between Aug. 9 and Aug. 16, 2004, and the sample has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent. That means the poll was conducted before news reports today and yesterday that provided documentary evidence contradicting the anti-Kerry vets' claims.

As for the ad's effectiveness in discrediting Kerry's Vietnam record, NAES reports: "Respondents who saw or heard about the ad are split about its believability. Forty-six percent find the ad very or somewhat believable and 49 percent find the ad very or somewhat unbelievable. Beliefs about the believability of the advertisement are strongly associated with partisan inclinations. Seventy percent of those with favorable opinions of Bush find the advertisement somewhat or very believable while 19 percent of those with favorable opinions of Kerry find it believable. Independent voters are nearly evenly split over whether they find the ad believable; 44 percent find the ad somewhat or very believable while 49 percent find the ad somewhat or very unbelievable."

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"One of the central claims of the advertisement, namely that Kerry did not earn all of the medals he was awarded during the Viet Nam War, also produced partisan differences. Before being asked about their exposure to the advertisement, survey respondents were asked about their beliefs regarding Kerry's medals. Overall, 59 percent of respondents believe that Kerry did earn all of the medals and 21 percent believe that he did not. By party identification, over three-fourths of all Democrats believe that Kerry earned his medals, compared to only 59 percent of Independents and 39 percent of Republicans."

"Those individuals who reported seeing the ad were more likely to question whether Kerry earned the medals than were those who did not recall seeing it. Thirty-one percent of those who saw the advertisement did not believe that Kerry earned all of the medals. Twenty-five percent of those who heard about the advertisement but did not see it believe that Kerry did not earn all of the medals. Of those who did not see the advertisement, only 12 percent believe that Kerry did not earn all of the medals. 'We don't know whether seeing the ad produced this difference,' said Jamieson, 'Those who previously doubted Kerry's war record may be more likely to recall seeing the ad.'"


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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