US election

To The Guardian

04 September 2000


Your coverage of the US elections in today's paper (04 September) is riddled with errors and ethical lapses that you would not tolerate in coverage of British politics.

For one thing you get the names of the two main candidates wrong. While the term "Jr" means little to British readers except as a way of belittling someone, in the US it has a particular meaning. It is used when the first name and initials of a man are the same as his father. The two candidates are therefore George W Bush and Albert Gore Jr. It seems unlikely that your correspondent has not heard of Senator Al Gore Sr, the Vice-President's father, so it seems odd that you should use the term "Jr" for Governor Bush, for whom it is wrong, and not for Gore, for whom it is correct.

You make much of a Newsweek poll showing that Gore has a substantial lead. This was a poll of registered voters, not of likely voters. You would not publish a British poll where the sample was not proportionate to the socio-economic distribution of the population among the voting public. Such a poll would also breach Market Research Society guidelines. Polls of likely voters, the ones conducted to the standards you would insist on in British politics, show that Gore's convention bounce has faded and Bush is once more in the lead.

Your correspondent describes Bush as lacking policy. Mr Borger may disagree with the Governor's proposals for radical reform of Social Security (pensions) and education, the two issues which polls show matter most to American voters, but he is doing no service to your readers by pretending that the Governor has not made them. Gore's policies, by contrast, are to oppose the Bush proposals.

You repeat the discredited allegations of favouritism shown to Bush because of his family connections and ignore the very similar allegations made, on better evidence, against Gore. At the time Bush joined the National Guard and trained as a fighter pilot his father held no public office. When Gore was assigned the dangerous duties of an army journalist his father was a Senator.

These are not the standards we expect of a broadsheet paper.

Yours truly,

Quentin Langley

Copyright Quentin Langley 04 September 2000

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