Are Undecided Voters Stupid?
October 18, 2000 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Are Undecided Voters Stupid?
Undecided voters "don't come across as terribly swift..."
"If you're undecided at this point, you're an idiot."
"These soft voters do not have a coherent set of beliefs."
More inside...
posted by Tubes (27 comments total)

 
Exactly what's been on my mind lately. Shouldn't adults already have formed positions on major issues, and figured out which party best supports their ideals? How can one waver between polar opposites? Does anyone NOT know how they feel about gun control, abortion, foreign policy, world trade, military spending, etc.?

No wonder the election process with its sound bites, debates, TV ads, etc. is all so tedious. They're after the undecided vapid voter who can't comprehend issues so must rely on personality and charisma. Yay, democracy.

posted by Tubes at 11:19 AM on October 18, 2000


How can one waver between polar opposites?

i would venture to say that Gore and Bush are far from polar opposites, but that's just, like, my opinion, man
posted by pnevares at 11:31 AM on October 18, 2000


perhaps the undecided voters feel that niether of the major-party candidates represents them; perhaps they agree with some of bush's positions, and some of gore's, and they need to sort out which issues outweigh other issues; perhaps they are trying to decide whether to cast their vote for a third-party candidate.

as for the major-party candidates being cookie cutters of one another, I don't agree.

I think bush is coming down on the traditional republican side: keep the government out of people's hair, state's rights, etc. (the result of this, in my opinion, has traditionally been that big-business escapes much scrutiny and wreaks even more havoc than usual.)

gore is coming down on the more traditional democratic side: the governement needs to use it's money and reach to help the less fortunate, and, to some extent, legislate morality for big business (as opposed to the traditional republican legislation of morality for individuals).

rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 11:38 AM on October 18, 2000


"Polar opposites" my ass. These two sons of privilege have more in common with each other than either one of them have in common with 95% of the electorate. They receive the bulk of their funding from the same corporate interests, and see campaign finance and corporate influence in such similar ways that they don't even consider them issues. Their viewpoints change direction with the wind, as they first appeal to the extremists of their political parties to get the nomination, then shift to more moderate positions for the less ideological voters you hold in such contempt. Yes, they do voice contrasting views on some issues, but many moderates hold mixed views on the issues they attempt to polarize. For which candidate should someone who believes in the availability of both guns and abortions vote? On some issues (foreign policy was an example during the debates), they try to appear different, but can articulate little difference between their policies. On the rare occasions that both candidates attempt to offer solid plans, many people are doubtful that either plan would be truly effective. A plague on both their houses.
posted by harmful at 11:50 AM on October 18, 2000


It's hard to blame people for being undecided when the two main candidates are basically the same, just with slightly varying degrees of mental retardation. The mainstream press isn't covering any of the other candidates, so how is a person who may be less net (and news) savvy to learn about other options? This article takes a very condescending tone toward the undecided vote, but I think you'd have to be a complete moron to think that either Bush or Gore are the best possible person to be President of this country.
posted by Doug at 12:15 PM on October 18, 2000


None the less, it cannot be denied that the people they chose for their focus groups of undecided voters after the debate were (hopefully) among our nations dumbest citizens. I heard one man say he was now leaning toward Bush after the debate because he felt Bush would put together a better campaign. He then corrected himself, "a better staff." Huh? Excuse me, which part of the debate dealt with the all important "better staff" issue sir? Were you receiving secret transmissions straight from the Republican HQ? When not speaking these people reminded me of cows standing in a field. When speaking my impression became far less favorable.

So yes, there may be undecided voters who can add 1 and 1, but they were not well represented by their brethren on the boob tube.
posted by Outlawyr at 12:19 PM on October 18, 2000


Prefab "opinions" and strongly held "positions" make me nervous. That sort of thing treads too close to unthinking dogma. I respect someone who refuses to make a decision until they have to. Isn't it better to keep your ears open, listen to everything, think about it all, but wait until you can't do any more waiting to decide what you're going to do? There's no rush, for once - take advantage of it.

Does anyone NOT know how they feel about gun control, abortion, foreign policy, world trade, military spending, etc.?

These issues are never, ever, at all as simple as they sound. Someone who has a clearly staked out position on any of these subjects, especially one that can be boiled down to Yes/No, Good/Bad, True/False, probably doesn't understand the "other side" and their point of view.

-Mars
(yes, I'm an undecided voter: it's either Nader or nobody, and I can't decide which choice would better make my point.)
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:38 PM on October 18, 2000


>it's either Nader or nobody, and I can't decide which choice would better make my point.<

nader will. not voting can be attributed to apathy. nader will be attributed to...well, nader.

rcb
posted by rebeccablood at 12:52 PM on October 18, 2000


Vote for Nader if for no other reason then to ensure that 12 years from now, there will be a potential for real change. Both Bush and Gore are centering their plans on budget promises that extend (as Gore put it) into the early years of the next decade.

The prez is not going to have a say on the budget 12 years from now. If the mainstream candidates can convince people to vote based on their ideas spread out over 12 years, I feel secure enough to make a vote that will not send anyone to the White House in the next 10.

A vote for Nader is a vote for a better future-- even if you don't agree with all of his solutions, at least he is talking about the problems.
posted by s10pen at 1:13 PM on October 18, 2000


Whenever a poll is mentioned in the media, it seems to be carved-up (at least by the commentators) as "Bush", "Gore" and "Undecided"... but I'm willing to bet that many of these undecided *have* decided. They've just decided for someone other than Bush or Gore.

It just looks like a tacit acceptance on the part of commentators of the two party oligarchy.

(Go Nader!)
posted by silusGROK at 1:24 PM on October 18, 2000


Yes they are stupid, they work with the assumption that the president is such a powerful person that he can actually do the things he promised let alone and hes not just pandering to the crowd. They could swing GOP on the presidential and Dem in congress and notthing twice about it. Its these jellyfish people that keep pollsters happy, "Oh Gore looked so confident last night," "I liked how Bush read that letter from that disabled woman. It was so sad and heartwarming" Completely not knowing that the GOP has been against the American w/ Disabilities act.

Unable to find out or even care about the record of the candidates they let CBS and NBC tell them who had the fancier suit and who stood the tallest. In the end after being fed enough BS to clog most municipal sewers most of these people vote with a group mentality "So umm do you like Gore?" "Heck no, he's a nerd" "Umm Ok" "We're all Bush right? Yes, Mom"
posted by skallas at 1:33 PM on October 18, 2000


Vote for Nader, because as White Middle Class Americans your immediate lives wouldn't be affected that much by a Bush Presidency.

Vote for Gore because we all need to be able to keep telling that stupid invented the internet joke.

Vote for Bush because . . um, because you believe that anyone, no matter how average of intellect and lacking of free will, can be president.

wrong side of bed, the; woke up on.

I'm just glad I live in New York, where a 20% Gore lead makes a vote for Nader = a vote for nobody.
posted by alan at 1:36 PM on October 18, 2000


...sons of privilege...


That's a good one. A plague indeed.
posted by inviolable at 1:36 PM on October 18, 2000



>>"I liked how Bush read that letter from that disabled woman. It was so sad and heartwarming" Completely not knowing that the GOP has been against the American w/ Disabilities act.<<

You did know that George H. Bush signed the thing, yes?
posted by drothgery at 1:45 PM on October 18, 2000


"Prefab "opinions" and strongly held "positions" make me nervous. That sort of thing treads too close to unthinking dogma." - Mars Saxman

Why are you threatened by the idea of people with principles? You should only be threatened by principles that oppose your own. Unless you have no principles.

"I respect someone who refuses to make a decision until they have to." - Mars

So you'd wait to decide how you feel about contraception and abortion until your girlfriend is pregnant?

You'd wait to decide how you feel about gun control until there's a stranger in your bedroom?

You'd wait to decide how you feel about military spending and foreign policy until the US got sucked into an unwinnable conflict?

You'd wait to decide how you feel about free trade until the last well-paying US manufacturing jobs went to foreign sweatshops?

You'd wait to decide how you feel about environmentalism until the rain forest is a big cow pasture and drinking water costs more than unleaded gasoline?
posted by Tubes at 2:16 PM on October 18, 2000


So you'd wait to decide how you feel about contraception and abortion until your girlfriend is pregnant?

See, Tubes, you're just being silly here. He'll wait (or did wait, I don't know his history, or sexuality or anything, but I'm going to run with the girlfriend thang for a bit :-) until he and his girlfriend decide to have sex to make that decision.

When he (alright, 'he' is no longer Mars, it's this hypothetical person, 'cause I no pretty much nothing about Mars. :-) becomes responsible for his and his family's saftey, he'll decide whether or not he needs to buy a gun.

He'll make a decision about military spending when conflicts get above his radar.

He'll decide how he feels about free trade when it's voted upon.

He'll decide how he feels about environmentalism next time he has to decide whether to toss the coffee cup out the window of his car, or into a trash can.

The point is that every situation requires a re-evaluation of your beliefs and your practices. By blindly saying "I'm Catholic so I hate abortion!" you aren't allowing yourself to explore who you are and how you've changed.

I can't imagine having the exact same belief system (ah, the belief system again! :-) in a year as I do now. Similar grounding, sure, but even more refined. Hell, the things that pissed me off this afternoon will probably make me laugh tomorrow. Every situation is different, and every situation warrants review, to do otherwise is to stop growing as a person.

And what fun is there in life if you stop growing?
posted by cCranium at 2:40 PM on October 18, 2000


All this pro-Nader euphoria that comes in the comments to every political post here on MeFi has me thinking that this is now the "fashionable" thing to do. What with the Eddie Vedder / Susan Sarandon rally to Nader's appearance on SNL - this is taking on the look of Hollywood's latest "cause celeb". Are you guys sheep? Were you pro-Nader 4 years ago? Or did you hop on the bandwagon?
posted by owillis at 2:47 PM on October 18, 2000


"Prefab "opinions" and strongly held "positions" make me nervous. That sort of thing treads too close to unthinking dogma." - Mars Saxman

Why are you threatened by the idea of people with principles? You should only be threatened by principles that oppose your own. Unless you have no principles. - Tubes

I am threatened by people who don't have principles. If your principles oppose mine, I am not as bothered - at least you have taken the time to think about them and come to a reasoned conclusion. As for "prefab opinions and strongly held positions," if they are reasonably thought out, what is the problem? Chances are someone who has really examined the issues will have strongly held positions. And if a compelling argument is made, then that position could change. At some point a position needs to be taken, one way or another, though. That doesn't automatically make it close-minded, prefab, or so strongly held you'll never let go...
posted by iblog at 2:58 PM on October 18, 2000


I was not a Nader supporter four years ago because he wasn’t actually running. He just put his name on the ticket. I fucking wanted to, it sounded interesting yea yea, anti-corporatism, pro-environment political party, cool cool, but he did not god damn campaign. In fact, I think he only spent $5,000 in ’96. So he didn’t get my vote.
posted by capt.crackpipe at 2:58 PM on October 18, 2000


Yes: I always vote with Sarandon.

Well, if we were going by sheer mass of celebrity support, wouldn't we go with the democrats? Voting for the major parties isn't sheeplike? Let's see, what would the indiest vote be? As it is verboten to vote for anyone popular. Hagelin 2000. Prepunch it for me.

Can't take shitty standards of artistic legitimacy as decent standards of moral, political legitimacy.
posted by EngineBeak at 3:35 PM on October 18, 2000


Undecided voters aren't stupid. People voting for Bush are stupid.
posted by aprilgem at 3:42 PM on October 18, 2000


Tubes, cCranium's defense of my comment is probably better than my own would be. I agree with everything he said.

Why are you threatened by the idea of people with principles? You should only be threatened by principles that oppose your own. Unless you have no principles.

I have principles. They're ideas like "fairness", "elegance", "a long term view", "balance", and "peace". I have rules of thumb based on those principles: things like "the simpler answer is probably better", "if it doesn't make sense, you don't understand it", "coercion is intellectual defeat", and "if it's not sustainable it's a waste of time".

Then there are opinions, which are ideas based on those principles, subject to change whenever I learn more about the situation. These would be statements like "economic globalization currently benefits very few at the expense of almost everyone and will cause more problems than it solves", or "a woman should not be prevented from aborting a pregnancy she does not want".

I'm not threatened by people who have principles. I'm afraid of people whose opinions are so closely held they cannot be changed; people for whom the difference between "principles" and "opinions" is academic.

cCranium made the following comment:
The point is that every situation requires a re-evaluation of your beliefs and your practices. By blindly saying "I'm Catholic so I hate abortion!" you aren't allowing yourself to explore who you are and how you've changed.

This is the essence of what I was trying to say. If you form your opinions fast and hold them hard, you lose the chance to absorb new information later which may enable you to make a better decision.

owillis said:
Are you guys sheep? Were you pro-Nader 4 years ago? Or did you hop on the bandwagon?

I'm sheep. Not only was I not pro-Nader 4 years ago, I didn't even know he was running. (This may have had something to do with the fact that I didn't live in the USA at the time!) And I'll freely admit that if there weren't a popular push behind Nader right now, I wouldn't even consider voting (for him or anyone else).

But that's the point. Nader's not running for President, he's running for Green Party growth and legitimisation. The bandwagon effect means he can probably succeed - so what's wrong with jumping on and helping him do it?

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:44 PM on October 18, 2000


I know why I'm not jumping on: naked fear. The idea of Bush in office scares me a hell of a lot more than my urge to give the two-party system the finger in the vote. I just don't see how a vote for Nader isn't a vote for Bush, and it seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face to pretend it isn't (well, for us pinkos, anyway).

Although it doesn't help either that I find Nader to be less a presidential figure than a full-time scold that was extruded from a large complaint factory.

posted by Skot at 3:56 PM on October 18, 2000


Skot, a vote for whomever is a vote for whomever. Remember in '92 when Perot got 19% of the popular vote and got bupkis in electoral votes? Almost a fifth of America wanted Perot, yet he carried no states. Nada. Zip. And Nader is hoping for 5%.

Boy...what a spoiler.
posted by RakDaddy at 4:17 PM on October 18, 2000


Obviously, this horse isn't dead enough to keep Salon from flogging it as well.
posted by harmful at 7:48 AM on October 19, 2000


Yay, Ms. Burns of Salon! Even more scathing than my original comments.
posted by Tubes at 2:15 PM on October 19, 2000


it's either Nader or nobody

Can't find the candidate that matches your belief system? Vote for the only person you know you agree with. That's right, You for president!

In fact, Everybody for president!
posted by Lirp at 4:35 PM on October 19, 2000


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