New York Times endorsement means nothing for Clinton

By Associate Editor

As some political experts and voters may have expected, Hillary Clinton took home a victory Feb. 1 at the Iowa Caucus. Unexpectedly, she won by the slimmest of margins—49.9 percent to Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders’ 49.6 percent. 

Just days before, The New York Times had announced its greatly anticipated endorsements for the presidential primaries. Clinton went into the caucus with the Times’ support in tow, as she has for two Senate runs and her 2008 presidential campaign against Barack Obama.

“Mr. Sanders does not have the breadth of experience or policy ideas that Mrs. Clinton offers,” the Jan. 30 editorial stated. “His boldest proposals … have earned him support among alienated middle-class voters and young people. But his plans for achieving them aren’t realistic, while Mrs. Clinton has very good, and achievable, proposals in both areas.”

With all that, it seems unlikely that the Times’ glowing support of Clinton played any role in her—barely—defeating Sanders, nor will it mean anything in upcoming primaries.

As the two candidates prepare for major primaries including New Hampshire and South Carolina, neither of them seem likely to gain any advantage from high-profile endorsements. The influence of endorsements may be a thing of the past as people turn less and less to news organizations for trusted opinions.

There are several reasons the preferences expressed by high-profile news organizations will likely be irrelevant during the 2016 presidential primary process, especially for the Democratic nomination. 

Supporters of Sanders have overwhelmingly been younger, according to several Quinnipiac University surveys throughout the last few campaign months. These younger voters likely don’t turn to traditional media to sway their opinion in the age of social media and immediate peer feedback.

Newspaper endorsements are ineffective aside from just the younger crowds. According to a Pew Research Center survey of Americans ages 18 and older completed during the 2008 presidential election, most people pay no attention to them.

Of the survey’s 1,000 participants, 69 percent said an endorsement from their local newspaper made no impact on their vote while only 14 percent said it would impact their voting decision. Granted, the New York Times is not a local newspaper but its influence, like its circulation, is likely declining.

The close race between Clinton and Sanders reflects these findings.

Sanders’ supporters are standing strong with their candidate who beat mainstream expectations and is now a legitimate contender.

The key to his success, despite not getting an endorsement from what is arguably the country’s most influential print medium, could be his younger fan base intentionally disregarding conventional ideals or being unfazed by an editorial board’s opinions because of growing access to news and knowledge. Regardless of the reason, Sanders cannot be counted out as an underdog anymore, even when the establishment favors his opponent.