For many voters, party allegiances outweigh stances on issues
Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 20:10
Think quickly–which presidential candidate supports increasing funds to Veterans Affairs hospitals in rural areas? I’m guessing most students reading this don’t know the answer to that question.
This is just another sign of an uniformed electorate. Most voters are unaware of most, if not all, of their chosen candidate’s policies. This is a tremendous problem if our country hopes to remain a free democracy.
One problem is that many voters decide which candidate to vote for based solely on whether they are a Democrat or Republican, without knowing anything else about them. For anyone who doubts this, a recent survey of Ohio voters provides proof.
The survey also asked about three non-partisan races for Supreme Court Justice. Although Justice candidates in Ohio do not run on a Party line, they all have allegiances to one of the two parties. The telephone survey did not mention which candidate allied with which party, since that information was not on the ballot, and as such was “unofficial”. The three races saw 63%, 62%, and 62% respectively, undecided. It is clear that without the aid of party labels, voters are not educated enough to decide who to vote for.
In his book “Just How Stupid Are We?” Rick Shenkman describes a study done during the 2000 Election Season by the Vanishing Voter Project. It was a 12-question survey and each question described an issue and asked if they knew whether a candidate supported or opposed it. Six questions pertained to George W. Bush, the Republican, and six to Al Gore, the Democrat. For instance, one question was “Do you … know whether Bush favors or opposes a large cut in personal income taxes?”
Unfortunately, the results were atrocious. On only two questions did a majority of Americans answer correctly. One was the Bush tax cuts question, and the other asked whether Al Gore supported or opposed Medicare extensions. Furthermore, many voters thought they knew what the answer was, but guessed wrong. Voters need to know what candidates stand for before they decide who to vote for.
On Oct. 15, Alternative Political Society, a student organization at UConn, held a mock debate and straw poll featuring six presidential candidates. However, there was a catch – audience members were not told which candidate was which until after they voted. The results were surprising. Rocky Anderson, running on the Justice Party line nationally and the Connecticut Independent Party line in Connecticut, won easily, receiving 57.6% of the vote. Republican Mitt Romney finished a distant second with only 15.4% of the vote. Jill Stein of the Green Party came in third with 11.5%, Democrat Barack Obama and Libertarian Gary Johnson tied for fourth with 7.7%, and Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode received no votes, and thus finished last.
However, it doesn’t take an expert to realize that Rocky Anderson will be lucky to get one-fiftieth of that share in Connecticut for the actual election Nov. 6. He certainly will not come anywhere near 57.6%. It also is obvious Obama will get far more than 7.7% of the popular vote in Connecticut and that Romney will get far more than 15.4%.
The disparity between the educated voters and the general public is disparaging and disturbing. How can we expect voters to make good choices when they don’t know what the candidates stand for?
The mainstream media is more responsible for this than anyone else. The left-leaning MSNBC would rather criticize Romney for tying his dog to his car than criticize him for his social conservatism. The right-leaning Fox News would rather speculate about Obama’s religion than his economic plan. As a result, voters are left in the dark about what matters most–the issues. When it comes time to vote on Election Day, they don’t know what to do.
Fortunately, with the internet growing faster than ever, people can find any information they want if they look hard enough. The problem is that many voters don’t do this. If this country wants to elect decent leaders, this needs to change. An informed electorate is a satisfied electorate because an informed electorate makes good choices.
And for those who didn’t get the above question–Obama supports increasing funds to rural VA Hospitals, and Romney doesn’t.