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Survey suggests most voters spend a lot of time researching the candidates and measures on their mail-in ballots with the voters' pamphlet

PMG FILE PHOTO - Ballot processors were busy this week tabulating the results of the Oregon general election

Oregonians have more sources of information than ever for deciding how to vote. They include traditional and alternative news media, exclusively online sources like political websites and blogs, and information spread through the growing forms of social media, including Facebook and Twitter.

So it may seem surprising that an overwhelming number of Oregon voters say they spend a lot of time with one of the most old-fashioned sources of ballot information, the voters' pamphlet produced and distributed by the secretary of state's office.

The thick paper booklet with information on candidates and ballot measures is nearly 115 years old. It is specialized for each county, mailed to every voter and distributed through public locations.

According to a new statewide poll by DHM Research, 63 percent of Oregon voters say they typically read about all the candidates and measures in the pamphlet if they appear on their ballot. Another 32 percent say they typically only read about candidates and measures if they are confused or uncertain about how to vote. Just 5 percent say they don't typically read the pamphlet at all.

Political consultants would give anything to be able to assure their clients that their advertising is so closely read.

"Comments from voters show the pamphlet appears to not only be helpful but to have a cultural role in voting in Oregon. Among likely or very likely voters — who tend to be more informed about the issues and follow a variety of sources — most still rely on the pamphlet to read about the candidates and measures that appear on their ballot," said Adam Davis of DHM Research.

The pamplet's use in ballot measure elections is especially impressive; 89 percent of respondents said they read both the official measure description and the arguments for and against measures. Four percent said they don't read about measures at all.

"When it comes to the voters' pamphlet, there are few demographic differences," Davis said. "At least six in 10 voters from all parties and of all registrations rely on the materials and read them thoroughly."

A large part of the commitment to the pamphlet may be its compatability with the state's vote-by-mail system, which Oregonians also overwhelmingly support. It is convenient for voters to sit down with their ballot and look up the candidates and measure as they work their way through it, especially if they are not yet familiar with them.

"The importance of the voters' pamphlet is strongly linked to Oregon's vote-by-mail system, which gives voters several weeks to review the candidates and measures and to make their choice," Davis said.

Vote-by-mail was first approved for testing by the Legislature in 1981 and made permanent in 1987. According to poll, 71 percent of voters prefer to vote by mail; 11 percent said they would prefer if Oregon only allowed voting in person.

"Vote-by-mail is just the Oregon way," Davis said. "People love to tell stories about huddling around their kitchen tables with their friends and families, flipping through the guide, and making their choices. This goes beyond Democrat or Republican, urban or rural."

At the same time, 18 percent of respondents said they prefer voting in person on Election Day, which is only allowed at county elections offices.

According to the poll, about 30 percent of Republicans preferred voting in person, compared to 2 percent of Democrats.

The poll also found that local politics isn't always local. A majority of voters — 78 percent — say that what goes on in Washington, D.C., has some or a lot of impact on their voting decisions here in Oregon. Democrats are slightly more likely to say national politics has a lot of impact (45 percent), compared to Republicans or nonaffiliated and other voters (36 percent and 32 percent, respectively).

The statewide survey of 642 Oregonians ages 18 and over was conducted Oct. 5-15. To read this and other DHM Research polls when they are posted, visit http://dhmresearch.com/category/blog.

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