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Keywords:

  • presidential elections;
  • political knowledge;
  • political advertising;
  • campaign rhetoric

In 2000, George W. Bush and Al Gore described their policy positions in ways that made distinctions difficult to discern. The candidates’ambiguity was mirrored in public knowledge, as awareness of their issue positions was extremely low. Public ignorance of the candidates’actual positions was particularly damaging to Gore, since many voters were unaware that they agreed with the Democrat on a variety of issues. Since Gore's positions were more popular, the election can be understood in part as a successful effort by Bush to limit understanding of issue distinctions and an unsuccessful effort by Gore to clarify those distinctions.