Undecided Voters Aren’t Stupid and Have Opinions

John Sides argues that, contrary to popular conception, undecided voters are neither morons nor non-partisan.

John Sides argues that, contrary to popular conception, undecided voters are neither morons nor non-partisan.

Several of the questions from last night’s debate led commentators to joke about whether the participants were truly “undecided voters,” as they were billed.  Jonathan Chait, for one, says that “Obama enjoyed friendly questions from an audience that obviously leaned left.”

It’s important to remember that undecided voters—at least as best we can identify them—are mostly composed of partisans.

[…]

One of the stupider things that people say about undecided voters is that they’re stupid.  But although they may follow politics less closely than other voters, they’re not somehow devoid of values, beliefs, and attitudes that bear directly on politics.  So we shouldn’t be surprised that last night’s questions were something more than anodyne, and may have reflected honest and meaningful opinions.

Sides points us to a piece by political scientists Larry Bartels and Lynn Vareck in the NYT:

These 592 undecided voters differ from those who have made up their minds (or are at least leaning one way or the other) in some unsurprising ways. For example, they are rather less knowledgeable about politics, and much more likely to say they follow news and public affairs “only now and then” or “hardly at all.” (Almost 40 percent are unsure which party currently has more members in the House of Representatives, and another 20 percent wrongly answered that it was the Democrats.) They are also considerably less likely to identify themselves as Republican or Democratic partisans, and less likely to call themselves liberals or conservatives (69 percent  say they are moderates or not sure).

These differences may seem to confirm the common stereotype of undecided voters as “a group of people that have virtually no partisan or ideological attachments, pay very little attention to politics, and often create the crazy swings we see in the horse race polls,” as Jay Cost of The Weekly Standard put it recently. But that stereotype turns out to be quite wrong in some important ways.

For example, despite the marked overrepresentation of independents among undecided voters, most undecided voters are not independents. The accompanying figure shows the distribution of party identification among our 592 undecided voters, as recorded in a C.C.A.P. baseline survey conducted with the same people in late 2011. Only three in ten were “pure” independents (those who denied leaning toward either party), while another 7 percent said they were not sure about their party identification. Four in ten were Democratic identifiers or leaners, while the remaining 23 percent  were Republican identifiers or leaners.

There’s a lot more to the piece but, essentially, most undecided Democrats are people who have serious misgivings about President Obama whereas most undecided Republicans are those, like myself, who have strong reservations about the party’s social agenda.

I’m not sure that people who are unenthusiastic about the political party that they nonetheless always vote for are best described as “undecided.” And, certainly,  the debate commission certainly didn’t set up a format in which undecided voters asked questions of the candidates with the intention of packing the room with disaffected Democrats that wish Obama were more liberal or would fight Republicans more vigorously.

Perhaps we should distinguish between political independents—those who genuinely have no partisan preference—and undecided voters. But the people Bartels and Vareck describe are mostly what we have typically called “leaners” in past cycles: people who almost always vote for the candidates of one party but are, for whatever reason, reluctant to identify themselves as members of that party.

As to Sides’ contention that saying undecided voters are stupid is stupid, well, I’ll need more evidence. Certainly, the questions that we get from their representatives at these town hall debates every four years weighs in our favor.

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Politics 101, US Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    I’ve always disliked this assault on independence, of course, but the easy answer is that it relies on single-axis thinking. It is as if there was one value of conservatism, and we all have more or less of it, and one value of liberalism which we similarly share in degree.

    That’s obviously not true, and even adding the standard two axis view of economic versus social freedoms illustrates that. Individuals are all over the map. We make a decision at election time of how to map our beliefs to candidates or parties.

    The classic “fiscally conservative but socially liberal” voter has a decision to make at every election. Which domain is more pressing in the moment? Which candidate is more dangerous in that domain?

    (We should note that the two-axis view is still a reduction.)

  2. john personna says:

    (Two extra axes to add would be environmental protective/unprotective and military interventionist/noninterventionist. In a better world those would not be bound, owned, by partisans.)

  3. Argon says:

    @john personna:
    I agree with the multidimensional aspect you mention. However, for those who identify as predominantly fiscally conservative and socially liberal, I think the choice is clear as the GOP hasn’t been either of these things for over two decades.

  4. Herb says:

    Last year, I was talking to a cousin of mine, not a dummy by any means, but he was confused about the differences between Republicans and Democrats and couldn’t tell left from right.

    Made me said that, as a gay man, he might have one day voted Republican without knowing it. But then again……I don’t think he’s ever voted.

    Brings to mind some liner notes from one of my Corrosion of Conformity records:

    “Politics is the control of wealth and power. You are being conditioned to condemn politics as petty and boring, thus granting all the more control to the powers that be. You are either a part of the problem or a part of the solution. The choice is yours.”

  5. Mr. Prosser says:

    Following on john personna’s line, I think many independents listen for what neither party talks about in detail (climate change for example). In the end an undecided may vote for the party which, in their opinion, will be closest to their values but not an exact fit.

  6. john personna says:

    @Argon:

    You know, the thing that really pushed me from self-identifying Republican to Independent was the wars.

    It really annoys me that some jerk political scientist would look at my voting record since then and say “oh, you lean left!”

    I’m certainly not left economically. I was “fiscally conservative but socially liberal” all along.

  7. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Truly “undecided voters” — people who literally don’t know for whom they’re voting this close to an election — is an oxymoron. They don’t actually vote. And if they do somehow manage to vote it turns into a net wash. Basically a coin flip.

    Left unsaid regarding the Hempstead farce is the giant neon donkey in the room. It’s not so much that those questions helped build the case that undecided voters are dolts. CNN simply stacked the deck in favor of their candidate, Obama.

    A question about AK-47s? Uh, huh. A middle-aged female “undecided voter” is sitting around the kitchen table all concerned not only about gun control but specifically about AK-47s? Right. A question about George W. Bush? Not only that but a question about Bush that sounded like a conservative parody about what a loopy liberal would say about Bush? Mmm, hmm. Sure, because people actually sit around the kitchen table, right after daddy has been laid off and the notice of default has arrived, and worry about whether Romney is too much like George Bush. Geez. Equal pay for women. Immigration. Hell, the only way those questions could have turned into more of a partisan farce is if CNN would have gotten someone to get up and say that they’re scared of Mormons and would Romney seek to impose his Mormonism upon the country.

    And that sort of thing has been going on forever. So I wouldn’t hold the town hall presidential debates against these people. Those are tragedies authored and directed by the liberal media.

    Semantically the better term probably is “indecisive.” Or maybe “apathetic.” They’re no more stupid in the literal sense than decided voters. They’re no more low information than those who are as certain as death and taxes for whom they’re voting.

  8. john personna says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    A question about AK-47s? Uh, huh. A middle-aged female “undecided voter” is sitting around the kitchen table all concerned not only about gun control but specifically about AK-47s? Right.

    Yeah, actually that does sound like a “busy mom” concern. She’s heard about these “AK-47s” (perhaps from her son’s FPS) and they worry her, especially as the news makes her suburban life seem a little less safe.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    @Argon: I wanted to raise the same point wrt/ James, who said

    most undecided Republicans are those, like myself, who have strong reservations about the party’s social agenda.

    The Republicans have proven over the last generation that they are not fiscally conservative. Romney’s tax plan certainly is not. It has to be clear that Republican foreign policy has been disastrous and Romney has mostly Bush neocon advisers, who he will have to rely on, as he obviously knows nothing. So the old question James, what is Romney offering that you want?

  10. john personna says:

    @gVOR08:

    I try not to beat James up about it, but I think his binding to the Republicans is pretty emotional. It is group identity only rationalized they hope that they are something else.

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    @gVOR08:

    So the old question James, what is Romney offering that you want?

    Tribal identity. The security of being Not The Hippies, and so offering a cheap validation that if you’re Not The Hippies, then you must be one of The Very Serious People.

    A long, long time ago, James identified the GOP as the party of the grown-ups, and he wanted to sit at the grown-ups’ table. Since then, the GOP has become the party of petulant whiny children, but James has never been able to see it, so strong did his emotional identification with them become.

  12. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Hey(*), remember. By electing the petulant whiny children, he is “changing them from within.”

    * – OK, now I am being hard on James.

  13. john personna says:

    James keeps a binder full of liberals and refers to them now and then, to confirm his view.

  14. mantis says:

    Only three in ten were “pure” independents (those who denied leaning toward either party), while another 7 percent said they were not sure about their party identification. Four in ten were Democratic identifiers or leaners, while the remaining 23 percent were Republican identifiers or leaners.

    Skewed! They oversampled wish-washy, low-information voters who lean left over wish-washy, low-information voters who lean right! Librul conspiracy! Unskew that study! Romney Wins!

  15. mantis says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Left unsaid regarding the Hempstead farce is the giant neon donkey in the room. It’s not so much that those questions helped build the case that undecided voters are dolts. CNN simply stacked the deck in favor of their candidate, Obama.

    Skewed! Librul conspiracy! Unskew the debates! Romney Wins!

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Rafer Janders: @john personna: Qhite likely true, identity and habit. Maybe other considerations also. When David Frum still had his blog, I used to comment occasionally that his role was determined by marketing. In journalism the “reasonable Democrat” niche is pretty crowded, but there’s a lot of open space in the “reasonable Republican” niche.

  17. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    Hey(*), remember. By electing the petulant whiny children, he is “changing them from within.”

    Because the one thing to do with petulant whiny children is to give them the run of the place….

  18. gVOR08 says:

    Scott Adams, the guy who does Dilbert, did a book several years ago in which he talked about inDUHviduals. He meant that people can only pay attention to so many things, and even though you might be quite bright, in most areas you will have little interest and little knowledge. That’s how I tend to think about undecided voters. I expect that Romney does better in debates than I would score him simply because there are a lot of people who haven’t been paying attention and don’t know he’s lying.

  19. Rafer Janders says:

    @gVOR08:

    In journalism the “reasonable Democrat” niche is pretty crowded, but there’s a lot of open space in the “reasonable Republican” niche.

    Good point. On the other hand, there seems to be an insatiable media demand for an “Even The Liberal Pat Caddell says…..” piece that there isn’t for an equivalent “Even The Republican James Joyner says….”.

  20. Kylopod says:

    I’ve noticed myself that political junkies have a tendency to apply the term “stupid” to anyone not particularly knowledgeable about, or engaged in, politics. The person could be a physicist or neurosurgeon or chess champion, but if he doesn’t know who John Boehner is, he’s “stupid.” So I basically agree with Sides on this narrow point. Nevertheless, I do consider it important that most of these undecided or swing voters are “low-information” voters, stupid or not. It means that the outcome of elections ends up falling on the people least qualified to assess the public policy questions of the day. Of course that’s part of what makes us a democracy, but it means we need to stop imagining these undecideds as a group of thoughtful independent thinkers distressed by the corruption of the entire political system. It’s a comforting stereotype that has existed for way too long, and that needs to be debunked far more urgently than the oversimplistic way some political nerds choose to insult this group.

  21. cian says:

    The Republicans have proven over the last generation that they are not fiscally conservative.

    Not sure this matters anymore. Conventional wisdom at the start of the presidential campaign proper was that it was all about the economy. For a while that perception changed and it looked as if the Obama team had moved the deciding question from the economy to a choice of competing visions for the country. Since the first debate, and since more and more undecided voters have become engaged, the economy is back and the country is starting to look again at Romney’s proposals and are starting to like what they hear.

    Romney’s 20% tax cut may be hokey and fiscally irresponsible, but when he talks about small businesses and how important it is to get them going again, and of how he knows how to do that, I think the dial moves increasingly in his direction. Small business is where most Americans live. Obama understands this too and has worked hard to strengthen this sector. However, attacking Romney over and over because his numbers don’t add up may be true, but my fear is a majority of the country doesn’t want to believe he’s correct. They want Romney’s numbers to add up.

    Don’t believe me? The CBS News post debate poll shows that 65% of viewers thought Romney won the economic exchanges.

  22. john personna says:

    @cian:

    Whatever lies in his heart, Obama has acted “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” That’s one of the things that has held off Republican attack.

    I mean, when a sitting President goes on and on about his tax cuts … you wouldn’t immediately think he’d be a “liberal.”

  23. john personna says:

    @cian:

    However, attacking Romney over and over because his numbers don’t add up may be true, but my fear is a majority of the country doesn’t want to believe he’s correct. They want Romney’s numbers to add up.

    On that, I thought this was a good moment:

    “If somebody came to you, governor, with a plan that said, ‘Here, I want to spend seven or eight trillion dollars, and we’re going to pay for it, but we can’t tell you until maybe after the election how we’re going to do it,’ you wouldn’t have taken such a sketchy deal, and neither should you, the American people.

    If I was an undecided low information voter, I think that would give me real pause.

  24. Barry says:

    @john personna: “The classic “fiscally conservative but socially liberal” voter has a decision to make at every election. Which domain is more pressing in the moment? Which candidate is more dangerous in that domain?”

    Please, this hasn’t been a real dilemma for decades.

  25. Barry says:

    @cian: “Romney’s 20% tax cut may be hokey and fiscally irresponsible, but when he talks about small businesses and how important it is to get them going again, and of how he knows how to do that, I think the dial moves increasingly in his direction”

    A guy starts with a huge lie, UBS makes up for it by sweet talk?

  26. Barry says:

    @Barry: (f@cking iPad)

    Read ‘but ‘ for ‘UBS’.

  27. C. Clavin says:

    If you take Romney’s economic plan seriously enough that you would consider voting for him…then yes…you are stupid.
    If you think turning Medicare into a voucher system is “preserving Medicare”…then yes…you are stupid.
    If you think Netanyahu is acting in the best interests of the US…then yes…you are stupid.
    If you think hiring a serial liar and two-faced opportunist like Romney to be President is a good idea…then yes…you are stupid.
    If you think Brandon Weeden is Colt McCoy..then yes…you are stupid.

    And if you buy into the “liberal media” meme…then you are definitely stupid.

  28. john personna says:

    @Barry:

    The economic axis, left-right, center has moved right. That’s for sure. When a sitting Democratic President has plans for spending reduction, you know it isn’t your grandfather’s liberalism.

  29. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    If you think criticism is censorship, yes you are stupid.

    If you think “acts of terror” are not “terrorism,” yes you are stupid.

  30. C. Clavin says:

    If you are ““fiscally conservative but socially liberal” then you only have one choice in this election.
    A “mathematically impossible” economic plan is by definition not fiscally conservative.
    Overturning Roe v. Wade is not socially liberal.
    If you are indeed “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” and you even consider voting for Romney/Ryan…then you are stupid. Period.

  31. john personna says:

    @C. Clavin:

    If you are ““fiscally conservative but socially liberal” then you only have one choice in this election.

    I agree. Jan Stein! (LOL, JK)

  32. george says:

    If you’re working on a large engineering project, the rule of thumb is that you don’t decide until all the information is in – ie, you remain undecided until its actually time to decide.

    There’s still a month until the election, and though its unlikely, things can change (one candidate or the other might be exposed as a serial child killer to use an over the top example). I’m pretty sure I’m going to vote for Obama, but I haven’t absolutely decided. Politics isn’t a team sport, its not about supporting your team no matter what happens.

    And some of us think voting on ideological grounds is questionable – over the years I’ve voted the whole range, from the NDP in Canada (well to the left of the Democrats in the US), to the Republican Party in the US – sometimes both in the same election. I’m not particularly interested in a politician’s ideology, just in how good a job they’re likely to do. And my observation is that their stated ideology has minimal bearing on what they actually do when in office. Judging them as an individual typically gives a better measure than their ideology (not that judging them as a person is particularly easy before they’ve been in office at least once).

  33. C. Clavin says:

    @ Cian…
    “…The CBS News post debate poll shows that 65% of viewers thought Romney won the economic exchanges…”
    If you listened to the economic exchanges what you heard was Romney firing off a bunch of statistics that took into account the time starting the very second Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20th, 2009. In effect…because his policies had not yet been formulated, much less put into place…Romney was blaming Obama for Bush’s economy. If you change the time-frame to even 6 months later, when Obama’s policies were beginning to be put in place…those statistics change drastically. Romney was using statistics to lie.
    Now…perception is reality and 65% of the viewers percieved Romney to be telling the truth. Which is just flat-out stupid.

  34. george says:

    @john personna:

    That’s obviously not true, and even adding the standard two axis view of economic versus social freedoms illustrates that. Individuals are all over the map. We make a decision at election time of how to map our beliefs to candidates or parties.

    Yup. For most folks a linear axis (left-right) is meaningless, and the two dimensional political compass still far too simplistic. I don’t know anyone who thinks that one party comes close to representing their views – its always choosing the better of two mismatches.

  35. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna:

    I mean, when a sitting President goes on and on about his tax cuts … you wouldn’t immediately think he’d be a “liberal.”

    Oh c’mon John… Every one knows he’s a socialist!

  36. Geek, Esq. says:

    The breakdown of partisanship is fascinating. Do we have more current figures on the partisanship of undecided voters? It seems–from the limited available information–that most undecideds are quite conservative at this stage and that Romney would stand to pick them up. But, the data from 2011 says undecideds have a Democratic ID tilt.

  37. john personna says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Lol, that’s the modern definition. He wants to cut spending a bit, and offset further cuts by restoring tax. Socialist!!!

  38. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @george:

    I don’t know anyone who thinks that one party comes close to representing their views

    Let me introduce myself, my name is Tom, and I am not insane. Can you guess which party I identify with?

  39. george says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Let me introduce myself, my name is Tom, and I am not insane. Can you guess which party I identify with?

    I’m impressed – there’s one party which matches almost all of your views? I’m guessing Democrat – how do you feel about the use of drones, or the killing of American’s overseas? The way Wall Street was protected from their activities that led to the crash? Most Democrats I know like some of what the party does, dislikes other things it does, but feel that the Republicans are worse.

    But duly noted, there is at least one person whose political views are matched by the activities of one of the parties. I still think you’re a rarity (for instance, most staunch conservatives are unhappy about the GOP’s lack of effort to ban abortion or eliminate social programs etc), but I guess I should have expected that there will be a percentage who find a 95% correlation between a party’s actions and their views. My bad.

  40. john personna says:

    @george:

    For what it’s worth, I think you named rational if immoral objections against the Dems.

    One can certainly name rational if immoral failings of the Republicans, for example one who accepts environmental loss and just doesn’t care.

    Someone who believes in a 6000 year old earth and the Laffer Curve, not so much.

  41. rodney dill says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: On the news in Detroit, virtually every time a shooting is mentioned the reporter says it was reported as being an AK-47. This is probably whether it was a 22 rifle, a shotgun, a handgun, or a car backfiring. (…and I’m not trying to make it sound like semi-automatics aren’t sometimes involved. too many times they are.) “AK-47” gets overused, especially around here.

  42. mantis says:
  43. Rob in CT says:

    Low-info != Moron. There may be a correlation, but I suspect it’s weak. Just like stupid and ignorant are not the same thing.

    As for indies/undecideds being non-partisan, yeah, duh. They lean. Often they lean hard.

  44. rodney dill says:

    @mantis: I was thinking of that chart when I referred to the car backfiring. I’d seen before, but didn’t have a link handy. Thanks.

  45. mantis says:

    @rodney dill:

    I was thinking of that chart when I referred to the car backfiring.

    I figured. They should have included a knife in the chart. I love those AK-47 knives.

  46. PD Shaw says:

    As to Sides’ contention that saying undecided voters are stupid is stupid, well, I’ll need more evidence.

    Political moderates and independents aren’t as smart on average, their wordsum scores (vocabulary test) are worse then people who self-identify as conservative or liberal ; republican or democrat. (Wordsum scores correlates to IQ) Link

    Smarter people have engaged in enough self-reflection to recognize their own tendencies and have the means to seek out information that re-enforces their views and adopt defenses against considering opposing views. These are “intelligent” activities. Whether or not they are worthwhile is a different matter.

  47. john personna says:

    @PD Shaw:

    Moderates are by definition balanced in the humors(*). It is hard to think that is a weakness.

    * – Greek reference for you to stuff in your Wordsum machine.

  48. PD Shaw says:

    @PD Shaw: I should add that the linked analysis removes “other party” as a variable, so people who identify as libertarian or green or some other value system would not necessarily be expected to be as dumb on average as independents/moderates.

  49. jukeboxgrad says:

    gVOR08:

    people can only pay attention to so many things

    This is one of many ways that the deck is stacked against the 47%. If I am struggling to survive, I have no time and energy to do what folks here do: study politics. Which means I lack information, and it’s easy to lie to me and take advantage of my ignorance.

  50. ptfe says:

    @PD Shaw: Don’t mistake “moderate and independent” with “undecided.” Those same thoughtful people you mention might know they identify with a major party — or consider themselves conservative or liberal — but not be convinced that they should vote for a major party. When someone says “undecided”, a lot of people here are assuming that means they’re choosing between R and D, when the reality can be very different.

    Indeed, I would have been an “undecided voter” back in my days outside of Virginia: my vote was often dependent on my mood that week and how strongly I felt about certain issues at the moment I punched the ballot. But these weren’t Bush v Gore issues, these were Gore v Nader v [insert random other candidate here who clearly couldn’t be president but closely matched my views], where nobody has a perfectly aligned platform and thus there’s actually a trade-off in the voting process. (In a swing state, the two-party system practically guarantees ability to win trumping the search for more perfect alignment.)

  51. jukeboxgrad says:

    clavin:

    If you listened to the economic exchanges what you heard was Romney firing off a bunch of statistics that took into account the time starting the very second Obama was inaugurated on Jan. 20th, 2009.

    It’s worse than that. If you pay close attention to Mitt’s narrative about deficit and debt, he is treating Obama as fully responsible for FY09, even though it started before Obama was even elected.

  52. Geek, Esq. says:

    @PD Shaw:

    In the case of partisans, though,

    Once the decision has been made, close your ear even to the best counter argument: sign of a strong character. Thus an occasional will to stupidity.

    –Friedrich Nietzsche

  53. ptfe says:

    @PD Shaw: Saved before I posted.

  54. rodney dill says:

    @mantis:
    Could be that I saw it here. doh.

  55. george says:

    @john personna:

    For what it’s worth, I think you named rational if immoral objections against the Dems.

    One can certainly name rational if immoral failings of the Republicans, for example one who accepts environmental loss and just doesn’t care.

    Someone who believes in a 6000 year old earth and the Laffer Curve, not so much.

    I agree, there’s a lot of rational if immoral failings on any party. In Canada you see this even with the major parties, as the NDP, Liberals and Conservatives tend to pair together on some issues against a third, and then pair up in a different combination on a different issue. The problem political parties run into is that they have to juggle ideology with getting elected – people who might want to vote for them because of one issue might be turned off by their position on another issue. The more parties in play, the more creative they have to become on this, as it can splinter quite quickly.

    Things like the 6000 year old earth and the Laffer curve are just silly – and I think both are pretty much limited to the US. There is a small number of young earth creationists in Canada, but I’d guess it less than 5% and probably less than 1% of self-proclaimed conservatives up here, and probably the same for conservatives in Europe or Japan. That’s more an American idiocyncracy than something inherent in conservatism. And I’ve no idea how many Canadian conservatives hold with the Laffer curve – no party ever brings it up, nor does the media. I suspect it too isn’t something conservatives outside the US have any use for.

    Of course, conservative means different things up here – Obama is well to the right of Stephen Harper (Canadian conservative prime minister) on things like heath care, for instance.

  56. george says:

    And in Canada, its pretty normal for a quarter or more of the population to be undecided even a few days before the election – including university professors (trust me on this). I think its because there’s less of a “support the team” mentality in politics up here (not that some don’t have that mentality, but its not the norm).

  57. Katharsis says:

    @gVOR08:

    Tone.

  58. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @george:

    I’m impressed – there’s one party which matches almost all of your views?

    That was not your question George, you said:

    I don’t know anyone who thinks that one party comes close to representing their views

    I replied that I was sane. When given a choice between the delusional and the flawed but realistic, I have chosen the latter.

    but I guess I should have expected that there will be a percentage who find a 95% correlation between a party’s actions and their views. My bad.

    Oh…. I thought an 75-85% correlation was “close to representing my views”. My bad.

    To describe me you have to change your statement of “Most This Democrats I know likes some the majority of what the party does, dislikes other things it does, but feel that the Republicans are far worse…. bordering on bat guano insane.

  59. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @george:

    And in Canada, its pretty normal for a quarter or more of the population to be undecided even a few days before the election –

    I think that is because Canadians are… well… actually nice people, and they want to give everybody a chance to be heard. It would be rude to make a decision before one had heard all the arguments for and against.

    I lived in Canada for about 6 months and found them to be even more thoughtful and polite than Minnesotans. I think it is the cold winters. Us Ozarkers, well, the hot and humid summers makes us a bunch of ill tempered a$$holes.

  60. cian says:

    Now…perception is reality and 65% of the viewers percieved Romney to be telling the truth. Which is just flat-out stupid.

    C Clavin,

    Starting out, I really didn’t give Romney much of a chance. In my innocence I found it hard to imagine any self respecting independent voting for the standard bearer of a party that for four years had shown utter disregard for the financial well being of their fellow citizens. The obstructionism was all encompassing. Even the first responders were seen as legitimate casualties in their war against Obama.

    As soon as Romney announced his tax plans I thought the game was up. The math was wrong and, again, what intelligent independent would buy what was pretty well acknowledged as pure snake oil by any and all serious economists. Those six studies supporting Romney’s position his campaign kept talking about? Op-eds and blog posts. The only truly independent study conducted confirmed the bad math. Either the middle class gets the bill for the wealthiest 1 percents’ tax cut, or the deficit explodes.

    If Romney wins my bet is he’ll put trickle down on steriods for the 1% and let the rest of us stew in the deficits juices. Any takers?

  61. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @george:

    The way Wall Street was protected from their activities that led to the crash?

    Oh and I just found this over at LGM:

    Master of the Universe emeritus Vikram Pandit has gotten bounced from his perch as CEO of Citigroup, but, unlike most unemployed Americans, he won’t have to worry about how to pay the bills until he can find another job.

    Citigroup’s stock today is worth about a tenth of what it was trading at when Pandit took over. Indeed the company exists today only because the U.S. government saw fit to deploy many billions of taxpayer dollars to keep it from going bankrupt in the fall of 2008, after Citi and friends caused a global financial meltdown through their grotesque mismanagement of their clients’ assets.

    As a token of the firm’s gratitude for the role he played in all this, Pandit is walking away with approximately $260 million in compensation. (In America in 2012, this is known as “letting the market reward performance.”).

    Personally, I think the lot of them should have been tarred and feathered and ridden out of town on a rail.

  62. mantis says:

    @rodney dill:

    @mantis:
    Could be that I saw it here. doh.

    Ha, I probably saw it there first as well.

  63. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    The classic “fiscally conservative but socially liberal” voter has a decision to make at every election.

    Well, not really, though. If you’re a fiscally conservative but socially liberal voter your choice is already made for you — the Democrats. A voter who actually is fiscally conservative should never even consider the Republicans, since the last twelve years have demonstrated with hard reality that the GOP is anything but that.

  64. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    I’m assuming a voter who lives 4 or 5 decades.

  65. PD Shaw says:

    @ptfe: I would also emphasize that the linked analysis indicates “on average” and certainly identifies very intelligent people who identify either as independent or moderate, they are just not the norm.

    Also, I would distinguish btw/ what intelligent people tend to do and what is intelligent. Intelligent people tend to drink more than less intelligent people. I wouldn’t conclude from that that it is intelligent to drink. It may or may not be. (Intelligent can find studies to bolster their tendencies, but its not the reason they drink.)

  66. Rafer Janders says:

    @george:

    I’m not particularly interested in a politician’s ideology, just in how good a job they’re likely to do. And my observation is that their stated ideology has minimal bearing on what they actually do when in office.

    Well, your stated observation is wrong. A politician’s stated ideology actually has a great bearing on what they do in office, far more in many cases than their “personality” (whatever that is). Republicans govern like Republicans, and Democrats like Democrats.

    Judging them as an individual typically gives a better measure than their ideology (not that judging them as a person is particularly easy before they’ve been in office at least once).

    Again, not really. Remember that politicians don’t govern in a vacuum — they have to work with others, build coalitions, find allies, ward off their enemies. The way that they do this is within their parties; a Democrat, for example, will enlist other Democrats to help him, and to do so he has to stay on good terms with fellow Democrats, swap favors, toe the party line on occassions, show solidarity, etc.

    The only way to really judge someone as an individual is to know them as an individual. But that’s impossible in a nation of 300 million people, so we need shortcuts, and party identity is one of the most reliable out there.

  67. Rafer Janders says:

    @john personna:

    Sure, but still that voter doesn’t fact those choices last decade or in this one. I’m not sure when a fiscally conservative voter who’s actually serious about that identity will again be able to consider the GOP in good conscience.

  68. john personna says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    As someone on the Internets noted yesterday, ideology is not the same as philosophy.

    (I swear the last debate might have had someone with a philosophy up against someone with an ideology.)

  69. george says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Well, your stated observation is wrong. A politician’s stated ideology actually has a great bearing on what they do in office, far more in many cases than their “personality” (whatever that is). Republicans govern like Republicans, and Democrats like Democrats.

    I don’t know, could you look at Obama’s policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan (drones) and determine whether he was a Democrat or Republican? How about how he handled Wall Street after the crash? The war on drugs? Presidential power? Even health care (going for something that will help the insurance companies instead of real public health?)

    For that matter, how about George Bush on abortion (stated views as opposed to what he did)?

    I’d say both, to a depressingly large extent, govern the same on most big issues.

  70. swbarnes2 says:

    @george:

    I don’t know, could you look at Obama’s policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan (drones) and determine whether he was a Democrat or Republican?

    Well, he didn’t start any major wars, and he’s withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, And Republicans would have done the opposite, so you, there’s a difference there.

    Even health care (going for something that will help the insurance companies instead of real public health?)

    Allowing young adult on their parents’ health care helps public health. Requiring people with pre-existing conditions be accepted into insurance helps public health. Requiring that insurance companies cover contraception help public health. Obama did all that, Republicans didn’t and never would.

  71. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna:

    The classic “fiscally conservative

    If by “fiscally conservative” you mean someone who works for low taxes and balanced budgets, I think they are all as dead as the dinosaurs. I will settle for “fiscally responsible”.

  72. David M says:

    @george:

    I’d say both, to a depressingly large extent, govern the same on most big issues.

    I’d say the Iraq invasion, 2001 / 2003 tax cuts, Medicare Part D and Obamacare should pretty much destroy that talking point forever. If not, we can add privatizing social security and ending Medicare to the GOP side to further make it obvious how different the two are.

  73. Rafer Janders says:

    @george:

    I don’t know, could you look at Obama’s policies on Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan (drones) and determine whether he was a Democrat or Republican? How about how he handled Wall Street after the crash? The war on drugs? Presidential power? Even health care (going for something that will help the insurance companies instead of real public health?)

    Yes, I actually can. He did not keep troops in Iraq over Iraq’s objections, he is drawing down in Afghanistan, he hasn’t invaded Pakistan, but he did go in to kill Osama bin Laden, he wasn’t as tough on Wall Street as I’d like but he rescued the American economy and didn’t let it nose-dive, he instituted universal coverage for Americans rather than leaving tens of millions of Americans out in the cold. None of these are things that Republicans support.

    On many of these issues he’s no the Ideal Democrat, but he’s certainly far more preferable to what Republicans have stated they’d do.

    And finally, Obama is calm and competent. That alone is enough to tell me that he’s a Democrat and not a Republican.

  74. Rafer Janders says:

    @george:

    I’d say both, to a depressingly large extent, govern the same on most big issues.

    Sure. Just like it would have made no difference if Al Gore instead of George W. Bush had taken office in 2001….

  75. george says:

    @swbarnes2:

    Well, he didn’t start any major wars, and he’s withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, And Republicans would have done the opposite, so you, there’s a difference there.

    Actually, a quick glance at history suggests as many Democratic presidents as Republican ones have started major wars in the last century. I don’t think the pattern of Democrat = no war, Republican = war is anywhere close to as set as you seem to believe.

  76. MBunge says:

    @george: “And in Canada, its pretty normal for a quarter or more of the population to be undecided even a few days before the election”

    And in Canada, has one party been campaigning and proselytizing for the essential repeal of the country’s social welfare safety net? Has one party become a de facto advocate of the use of torture? Has one party advanced a tax policy that literally makes no mathematical sense?

    I would give the undecided voter one break. It used to be not that bad to be undecided because both the GOP and Democrats offered up more-or-less reasonable options. If Bob Dole had somehow gotten elected in 1996, the world wouldn’t have come to an end. Since then, however, the Republican Party and American conservatism has become radicalized on multiple levels to a truly frightening degree. Our mainstream media and our political elite have not only failed to inform the public of this, they have actively worked to prevent it from being understood.

    Mike

  77. nightrider says:

    Re the social liberal/business conservative type, contrary to many comments above the business side isn’t only “fiscal” conservatism solely defined by government budget and taxes. There are non-fiscal regulations favored by Democrats more than Republicans that are arguably bad or unnecessary policy and one could sanely prefer Republican Administrations for that reason, if viewed in isolation. I’ll still vote for Obama because I don’t see any other responsible, viable choice, and don’t see how the current version of the GOP will ever produce one, but there are certainly better theoretical options for the social liberal/business conservative type.

  78. swbarnes2 says:

    @george:

    Actually, a quick glance at history

    History?

    I don’t care about you making up some Platonic definition of Democrats and Republicans based on 100 years of history so you can pretend they are the same. Modern Republicans aren’t anything like Abraham Lincoln, we aren’t talking about FDR invading Germany.

    In the last 12 years, Republicans have been the ones to invade other countries, not Democrats. Democrats have pulled Americans out.

  79. David M says:

    @george:

    How are actions over the last century useful when comparing two current politicians from different parties? The parties have changed far too much over that time to tell us anything.

  80. matt says:

    What i find funny is I hunt with an ak 47. It is called a saiga 7.62.

  81. Barry says:

    @john personna: “I’m assuming a voter who lives 4 or 5 decades”

    Yes, but in this decade, and the last, and very likely the next, that choice is clear.

  82. al-Ameda says:

    There are no … NONE … undecided voters. It’s a lie, period.

  83. Tracey P says:

    I’m undecided. I’ve affiliated with Libertarians before (but only in elections that weren’t close; when it’s close, I shed that label and go two-party).

    Obviously can’t speak for us all, but personally I’m turned off by radical “movements” like the Tea Party; and I will NOT support calling half the country racist, stupid, homophobes, hippies, etc. It seems to me there are [roughly] 40% Dem, 40% Repubs, and the final bit truly moderate who have and will continue to vote across party lines.

    And ARE YOU KIDDING ME? We independents THINK about each issue instead of letting a party dictate how we should think. WE’RE the thinkers! In fact, I find it hard to believe that each party has a 40% strong base because each side has gotten some real losers for candidates (and yes, EACH side). An independent (well, this one) will tend to look at the mood of the country, and the personality of the candidate, as much as the issues.

    Had I been old enough, I would have voted for Reagan because he was a better statesman than Carter, period. I detested Clinton’s mannerisms and [what I saw as] misogyny, but his policies weren’t bad and he could get Congress to work with him somewhat. There are OTHER factors (MANY other factors) in selecting a President/congressman than their party’s ideals.

    This time around, I’ve chose a Republican and a Democrat (for congressional seats), and various locals who don’t identify with parties, but I’m STUCK on Romney v Obama. Guess what: I like them BOTH. I liked Obama better and supported him in ’08, because I loved the excitement of the nation; I loved the calm manner in which Obama presented himself; and I really liked his anti-war ideas. I think he’s been pretty good (minus a few things like Guantanamo Bay and Bradley Manning, which he heard about from me).

    But Romney, once you get over his high-pitched voice, isn’t really all that different from Obama, and there’s some excitement generating around him; plus there’s some depression in the economy that I just can’t explain except to go back to 9/11. —AND I think more women want to get home to make dinner than “liberals” account for. That whole issue would have passed over my head (no big deal) until the media made it a debate. The whole thing is really stupid, too: neither Obama nor Romney want to put women in the kitchen, or keep them out of the kitchen! Duh! But yeah, I’ve got to think about dinner every night (though my husband does help some). Saddest thing: the point goes to Romney because Obama followers seem out-of-touch when they pronounce women don’t need to make dinner. Yes, we do need to make dinner, whether we’re married or single-moms; may not be fair, but it’s the way it is.

    (I try to remind myself that the followers AREN’T the candidates, but if the offensive followers win, they believe they have a mandate, even with a slim margin, so what the followers say DO matter to me.)

    I like Romney on domestic policies (because the country just isn’t economically sound, imo), but I’m not sure I can vote AGAINST Obama when he handled Libya (and all war situations) with such grace and dignity. With gravity. Clinton and Bush were excited to start wars and carpetbomb places; Obama struggled, even with U.N. approval to strike Tripoli. I think Obama is more supported by the world than our previous Presidents.

    Yes, I am absolutely in favor of both candidates; I like ’em both. I’m truly torn. And I usually am. And it’s not because I don’t “follow politics” or whatever ridiculousness I’ve read on this thread; it’s because I feel responsible and won’t marry either of the two parties, so I judge by the person and the mood of the country (I’m REALLY against civil war, I guess). “Who will do the least damage?” and “Who can lead the Congress?” and “Who can pull a Reagan and talk the U.S.S.R. into being Russia. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall” STILL resonates nicely with me. And fortunately, I believe both Obama and Romney (to a lesser degree because I don’t know him well) are good statesmen.

    At least on election day, I won’t be sad, you know? Either one would be a fine President. But I guarantee you I take this election (and them all) at least as seriously as you party worshipers who vote blindly for whatever mess of a candidate your party puts up there. Don’t TELL me I don’t think, struggle, and carefully consider each candidate’s ability to do the momentous job set before them.

  84. john personna says:

    @Tracey P:

    GWB and Gore both convinced me so well that they were moderates that I didn’t vote that time around. I am afraid that I even bought that Cheney would be a steady hand rather than a driver of extreme policy.

    Well, I learned that lesson.

    But Romney, once you get over his high-pitched voice, isn’t really all that different from Obama, and there’s some excitement generating around him; plus there’s some depression in the economy that I just can’t explain except to go back to 9/11.

    But he’s got a neocon crew, right? A Mass Mitt with a Mass posse would be a totally different thing.

  85. Dazedandconfused says:

    I’ve always considered myself “undecided” until I check the box.

    I’ll keep looking for supporting evidence that Mitt could (or even would) lead the Republican party back to conservative pragmatism right up to that day too, however dim the prospect.

  86. Barry says:

    @Tracey P:You claim to think about each issue, and then say ‘But Romney, once you get over his high-pitched voice, isn’t really all that different from Obama, and there’s some excitement generating around him; plus there’s some depression in the economy that I just can’t explain except to go back to 9/11. ‘.

    I think that you are supporting the other side of the debate here.

  87. Eric Florack says:

    There’s only one way, really to account for the ‘undecided’ voters offered up by Crowley at the most recent debate… All these undecideds, were actually former Obama voters who cannot stomach the idea of supporting the re-election of what they’ve seen the last four years, even though they’ve yet to determine in their own minds precisely what went wrong. They recognize Obama is a failure of epic proportions…. Even by the standards of the left. Trouble is, they haven’t figured out yet that the problem is leftist/socialist policy and that Obama is merely rather grotesque symptom of the problem, not the cause.

  88. Barry says:

    @Eric Florack: What would we do without you?