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Posted: 9/14/2004 3:01:36 PM EDT

Poll finds more people excited about fall foliage than election

Monday September 13, 2004
Associated Press Writer

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) Call it something of a blow to democracy: A new poll finds Americans are apparently more excited about the leaves changing colors than they are about the upcoming presidential election.

Of about 1,000 adults surveyed, 54 percent said they were looking forward to fall foliage, while 48 percent were excited about the presidential election.

The race for control of the White House did, however, at least beat out fall football season, which had 46 percent revved up. Choosing the nation's leader also fared ahead of colder weather (40 percent) and kids returning to school (38 percent).

``There's a certain fatigue people have had about this election,'' said Robert Richie, executive director of The Center for Voting and Democracy in Takoma Park, Md. ``We haven't had the leaves change yet so it's like, 'That's new.'''

Experts caution it's the kind of poll question that invites a cynical response: ``Now that summer is over, which of the following are you looking forward to?''

And the telephone survey's margin of error means the election versus foliage duel could be closer than results seem to indicate.

The survey released Monday was conducted by the Princeton-based market research firm TNS between Aug. 31 and Sept. 3, and polled about 1,000 adults. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

Still, public officials say one thing's for sure voter registration deadlines in most states will creep up before leaf-peeping season. Many states require people to sign up 30 days ahead of the Nov. 2 election.

Some 54 percent of Americans voted in 2000, according to Curtis Gans, executive director of the Washington-based Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, who estimates between 58 and 60 percent will vote this November.

``I think the central factor is simply the Bush administration is an absolute lightning rod on both sides,'' Gans said.

People might not be psyched about the election, but Richie says most voters seem to have stronger opinions and appear to be making up their minds earlier than they did in 2000.

``It's true more people may see the fall colors than vote in most states, but more people think it's important what's going to happen (on Nov. 2) than whether it's a great fall season or not.''
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