How much weight do you give endorsements?

Here in Georgia there’s a runoff today, and one of the runoff races is for a local judge. The two candidates apparently have the following platforms, based on the bonkers amount of flyers I’ve gotten in my mailbox the past week:

Candidate A: I did X, Y, and Z during my previous term, and I plan to do A, B, and C in my next term.

Candidate 2: I’ve been endorsed by my former opponents in the primary election!
In full disclosure, I voted for A in both the primary and runoff, but Candidate 2’s campaign baffles me. I could give a damn whether someone else likes you - I care about what you say you’re going to do (and to some extent my belief you will actually do that). But having these endorsements must mean something to somebody. The question is: who?

For certain local races where I don’t have the time to fully understand the differences between candidates and their positions, I may give weight to an endorsement of someone I trust, and who I feel might have more knowledge of the candidates than I do. So I might look more favorably on campaign flyer that mentions such an endorsement than I would on a flyer that talks about the importance of family and justice and freedom. Ideally of course you would want a flyer that proposes specifics, but that has a high probability of backfiring so they are rarely attempted.

As for your example I assume that it is an attempt by candidate 2 to get the party to reunite behind him after a bitter primary. Basically Hillary saying that even though she ran hard against Obama over the past several months, those Hillary supporters who may be angry at Obama for beating her are still better served by voting for him, rather than voting for McCain out of spite.

Yeah, but that’s an insincere endorsement. It doesn’t change all the criticisms she had of him in public, and it certainly doesn’t change the far more severe criticisms she and her husband made of him in private that leaked out.

The only endorsements that matter to me are by politicians I hold in esteem on races where they don’t have an obvious partisan interest. Such as when Charlie Crist endorsed John McCain. And when Tom Coburn endorsed John McCain. And then even Joe Lieberman endorsed McCain.

Almost all the Republicans who endorsed Romney in 2008 were people I didn’t care about or even like very much. Most of the ones I liked endorsed McCain.

I wouldn’t call the primary particularly bitter - the only time the candidates referred to each other was a single flyer put out by candidates A that had something like:

Issue - Candidate A - My opponents
Years as judge - two bazillion - ZERO
Cases heard - 2347859 - ONE
Years living in area - 42 - 17
and so forth and so on. Didn’t mention any of the opponents (there were four candidates) by name. Which seems pretty tame as far as “bitter primaries” go.

I do see your point about trying show a rally effect though.

In local races: For the most part, an endorsement from a union or an environmental group is all I need to vote for the other guy. Also, anyone recommended by John Lovick (current Snohomish County Executive) starts with two strikes against them. There are very few endorsements that I see as a positive, though I sometimes favor police and fire departments.

In national races: I don’t even pay attention to the endorsements. That’s partly because I know a lot more about those candidates and partly because national positions tend to follow party lines.

I pretty much know whether I approve of a candidate or not. Endorsements only make me judge the groups giving them out.

May I ask what the logic behind this is? Do you prefer for your politicians to be wasteful and inefficient, or do you just regard wanton destruction as a goal to be desired?

Personally, I don’t give much weight to personal endorsements, except in the (increasingly rare) case that they’re cross-party. Of course a Whig is going to endorse a Whig, and a Tory is going to endorse a Tory-- If it’s not so, then there’s something deeply wrong with the party. Institutional endorsements, though, mean something, if they’re from the right institution. If there’s some organization devoted to some issue that I agree with, and they endorse a candidate, then I don’t need to do the research myself for that candidate and that issue.

For local elections where I can’t possibly do in-depth research of every single candidate, I typically look at who the LGBT groups have endorsed for whatever position, and vote for them. I figure anyone who gets the LGBT institutional endorsements are going to be fine by me, even if LGBT issues aren’t the most important thing to me, and even if the position has little power to effect change for LGBT citizens.

I can also use endorsements to filter people out, as well. If I see someone being endorsed by a bunch of right-wing organizations, I know I don’t need to bother voting for them or learning more about them.

No, I prefer politicians who will strike a balance between the interests of business and the environment.

Let’s also keep in mind that I live in western Washington. We have people arguing against hydroelectric power because it isn’t green enough. We also need a $15 minimum wage and mandatory paid sick leave because it wasn’t sufficient to be just the second highest minimum wage in the US. By the time a candidate is endorsed by environmentalists or unions, it’s a safe bet that they’re so far left of left that balance is not what they’re interested in.

If I was a voter in Texas, I would probably find myself using a different metric.

I don’t do the reverse thing, vote against a candidate because of who endorses him. I think that’s just a really bad way to look at things.

Another thing about endorsements which actually makes them more valuable than simple research is that it probably can tell you more about character than you’d get from researching yourself. When a guy has close friends among politicians you find honest and trustworthy, then chances are he is honest and trustworthy. So when McCain won endorsements from guys like Coburn, Crist, Lindsay Graham, and Joe Lieberman, that meant something. Most of McCain’s endorsements weren’t ideological, they were based on the fact that these guys knew who he was.

I guess it meant something, but not anything positive.

I’m going to repost something that I posted last March for my primary elections.

As far as endorsements from other groups, usually it’s sort of meh. In a party primary or non-partisan election they can be useful to see who is supported by what groups. In an election with two different parties, they usually don’t tell you much (barring, as previously mentioned, cross-party endorsements)

Unsurprisingly, there’s a hierarchy of endorsements.

Chris Cillizza at The Fix has defined them.

Here they are, from most impactful to least:

It could make for some interesting strategic endorsements. Could you imagine John Boehner endorsing Hillary Clinton!?

As a spectator, I care about the significant endorsements like Ted Kennedy endorsing Obama early. The major media endorsements are also interesting to me but as I always vote for the D, inconsequential to me personally. As a voter, I will look at endorsements to filter out candidates for the local races. If someone gets an endorsement from Right To Life or NRA or the like, then I will vote against them unless there’s equivalent poisonous ednorsements for the other guy.

Honestly, next to none.

For a little local election, I’m more likely to take into account the opinion of someone I know (with some verification of course…) over an “official” endorsement that requires a press release or the like. But even then, someone else’s opinion carries very little weight with me.

For state or national elections, I completely disregard endorsements. I might be interested in someone endorsing a candidate as an “interesting…” but that’s assuming I take notice at all. A candidates record and/or what they’re likely to do or vote based on what they say is more important.

Certainly a candidate’s actual record is what really counts, but it’s a lot of work to sort out a candidate’s full record. Let’s say, for instance, that you’re pro-gun, and put a high priority on voting for someone who is likewise pro-gun. You could go through the entire Congressional record, and the record of the state legislature that your candidate served in before Congress, and pick out each and every vote that involved guns, and figure out which side on each vote was the pro-gun side, and tally it all up. But that’s a lot of work: The total records of the legislatures are huge, and you might not even know where to find them all (especially the state and local ones), and you’d need some sophisticated filters to find which of them involved guns, and figuring out which side is which might take further work. But I guarantee you that the NRA has already done all of that work, and published their findings. Thus, if that’s your goal, the far simpler approach is to just look at the NRA’s rating of the candidate.

These days a lot of endorsing organizations put questionnaires, interviews, and videos online so that we can see how they made their decisions. For local races, I rely on this sort of information, as well as similar material put out by non-endorsing organization like the League of Women Voters. By getting candidates to answer the same questions, they reveal a lot. When a candidate for the city council turns every question to American foreign policy, I’m not inclined to vote for that person, even if I agree with the position, because the city council has fuck-all to do with foreign policy, which means the candidate is deluded or has no intention of concentrating on the job.

I also learn a lot from what the endorsements say. If an endorsement praises a candidate for holding positions that I disagree with, or if an editorial criticizes another for doing exactly what I want, that’s good information. And sometimes the endorsement alone is enough - while I can’t think of any group whose opinion I’ll accept uncritically, if I see the endorsement of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, I run the other way.

In most cases, endorsements carry little weight, although they can be useful when, as **Buck Gudot **pointed out, you have a relatively little-known person endorsed by someone better known.

The most interesting endorsement in recent years was Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama. That served to put people on notice that it was OK to defect from the previously all-but-certain candidate, Hillary. It is very, very interesting to speculate about what motivated him to take that action, without which Obama would still be in the Senate.

You don’t actually have to speculate. All the books on the 2008 election spend a lot of time on the subject, how Bill Clinton lobbied him day after day to get him to endorse Hillary.