One suspects that most people who spend a substantial portion of their time traipsing through the world of politics, punditry, and public policy have a hard time empathizing with those who have yet to make a choice in this year’s presidential election.
But the latest Bloomberg Businessweek offers some enlightenment about “the undecided.”
What they share is a deep sense of frustration. In a Sept. 17 focus group of undecided voters in Fairfax County, Va., conducted by the Democratic pollster Peter Hart for the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, feelings were almost uniformly negative. Hart went around the room asking participants to describe how they feel about the presidential campaign in a word or phrase. Their answers included: “removed … ambivalent … negative … very negative … cheap slugfest … confused … contentious.” Then he asked them to describe Mitt Romney: “stiff … evasive … uppity … unfriendly.” Obama fared no better: “overly confident … unrealistic … arrogant … hollow.” A.J. Morning, a 41-year-old computer technician from Springfield, Va., summed up the group’s mood when he told Hart that the country is “mired in a bowl of stupid.”
These attitudes reflect the broader findings of political scientists. Among the most comprehensive ongoing studies of undecideds is a YouGov poll for the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project that has tracked 1,543 of them since January. According to University of California at Los Angeles professor Lynn Vavreck and Vanderbilt University professor Larry Bartels, who analyzed the results, these voters span the political spectrum but differ from typical Democrats and Republicans in their low regard for their party’s candidate. The analysis showed that only 8 percent of undecided Democrats like Obama a lot, vs. 65 percent of Democrats who’ve made up their minds to vote for him; a brutal 1 percent of undecided Republicans like Romney a lot, while 35 percent say they personally dislike him.
So, far from being indecisive and principle-free, perhaps a good chunk of the population of undecided voters simply finds politics — and politicians — utterly repulsive. If that’s true, that factor would bode well for a society dedicated to the idea of limited government and personal responsibility. Those who dislike politicians of all makes and models are unlikely to surrender more power to government than is absolutely necessary.