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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 November, 2004, 15:25 GMT
Did Guardian turn Ohio to Bush?
George and Laura Bush
US journalists have identified the 'Guardian Effect'
Was it "the Guardian wot swung it" is the somewhat tongue-in-cheek question for analysts following George Bush's presidential election victory.

Specifically, was the "Guardian Effect" to blame for the pro-Bush swing in one Ohio county?

In the run up to the US presidential election, the left-wing paper identified the area as a vote-swingers hotspot.

Under Operation Clark County, it began a letter-writing campaign which aimed to give people outside the US a say in the election.

Opposite result

The project set up its readers as pen pals with American voters, to press home the international ramifications of a vote for Republican George Bush or Democrat John Kerry.

But in Clark County itself, there was a swing away from the Democrat.

Some arrogant Brit telling us why to not vote for George Bush is going to backfire, you stupid, yellow-toothed pansies
US voter
In 2000, Democrat presidential candidate Al Gore won the county by 1% - or about 324 votes - this time President George Bush won 51%, with a 1600-vote county-wide swing in his favour.

However, with President Bush back in the White House until 2009 on 51% of 120m US votes, the Guardian's G2 section editor Ian Katz has said it would be "self-aggrandising" to assume the exercise made a difference.

And election-watchers have pointed out another important factor - that Bush's party campaigned hard to get the vote out in pro-republican rural counties across the state.

They had a target for Ohio of a 150,000 vote margin and George Bush won the state by 136,483.

'They lost it'

But some locals believe the Guardian campaign did have an effect.

As Jack Bianchi, managing editor of local paper the Springfield News-Sun said of the letters: "At the end of the day you get two responses."

And the main one, he ventured, was a "direct result of the 'Guardian Effect' - a 3% turnaround in the vote from the 2000 to 2004 election.

"Republican party county chairman Dan Harkins thinks they lost it for John Kerry," he told the BBC.

Mr Harkins, however, has said the paper did not cause a xenophobic reaction, but did mobilise people by reminding them of the election's importance. The state enjoyed a higher than normal 76% turnout

The Guardian estimates 14,000 people signed up to contact a US voter - before the website register was rendered unusable by hackers.

Worldwide response

There was worldwide media interest, as well as an often harsh - and sometimes unprintable - retort from American voters.

Editor of the paper's G2 section Ian Katz admitted in one article: "America was never going to embrace our modest sortie into US politics and we knew full well that any individual voter might take exception to the idea of a foreigner writing to offer some advice on how they should vote."

Nobody's going to be hiring me as a political strategist
Ian Katz
G2 Editor
And take exception they did.

"Each email someone gets from some arrogant Brit telling us why to not vote for George Bush is going to backfire, you stupid, yellow-toothed pansies," read one reply.

"If you want to have a meaningful election in your crappy little island full yellow teeth, then maybe you should try not to sell your sovereignty out to Brussels."

"Real Americans aren't interested in your pansy-ass, tea-sipping opinions," read another.

But Mr Katz denies the experiment backfired.

"The only thing that's completely clear is that we didn't get Kerry elected and nobody's going to be hiring me as a political strategist," he said.

It had, however, succeeded in getting people talking about how much a decision they could not influence would affect them, he said, although its light-hearted approach had been "lost in translation".

With the scale of George Bush's win, and events such as Osama Bin Laden's statement in the week before polling day, a claim the Guardian had influenced the result would be "self-aggrandising", he said.


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