From a recent report by political polling consultants Peter D. Hart and Geoffrey Garin:
The dynamics of Campaign '86 are very different from those of previous election years, and issues will play a role different from the one they played in 1980, 1982 or 1984. Voters are focusing on the candidates' character to a much greater extent than in the past three elections, and the primary role of issues in 1986 will be to provide insights into a candidate's personal qualities and priorities.
. . . W hile voters tend to agree on which problems are important in 1986, there is no clear consensus about the solutions. Voters are uncertain what government should do to deal with the budget deficit, or even with the farm crisis. There are no easy answers, and the voters recognize this. The last time we faced a similar situation was 1978; that year, voters concentrated on minor issues when they could not get a handle on major ones. In 1986, the voters take a different approach. They are saying: "If I am unsure of the choices that must be made on the issues, at least I want to be sure of the people who will be making the choices for me."
. . . Voters may want to know where a candidate stands on Gramm-Rudman-Hollings or contra aid, but the insights that matter most are those that say, "This candidate is a person whose character, values and priorities I can trust." The candidates who can reveal who they are, what moved them, what they will fight for and who they will fight for have the upper hand in 1986. Marshall McLuhan said that the medium is the message. For American politics in 1986, the messenger is the message.