With just 12 weeks to go before the election, the percentage of undecided voters in the presidential race is “only a sliver of the electorate.” While there are usually more voters who haven’t made up their minds at this phase of the race, in 2012, “undecideds” are far and few between.
And what, pray tell, are these folks waiting for? I don’t know any undecided voters personally, so I was fascinated to see this interview John Harwood did with a woman – a former Democrat, a former Republican, and current independent – just south of Cleveland.
She said she “mostly” turns off coverage of the election, mutes the television ads, hangs up on everyone who calls, and won’t watch the conventions. She’s unfamiliar with the candidates in her House district, and she also doesn’t “know anything” about her senator, Rob Portman. It led to this exchange:
Q. Do you see big philosophical differences between Obama and Romney, and what difference might it make in your life?
A. They’re on their own agendas. Romney’s going to push through for big business. I’m not sure what Obama’s doing. I don’t see either party giving me any benefits whatsoever in my life, because there’s such a deadlock. They’re equally to blame. You’ve got Congress and the Senate and the Republicans and the Democrats – they’re not going to meet in the middle. They don’t care about the middle-class person. They’ve got all the lobbyists in their back pocket. We elect them, but they don’t listen to us.
Here’s the thing I don’t quite understand about this perspective: how does this voter know? How does she know “all” the politicians ignore regular folks’ needs if she’s completely disengaged from current events?
Obviously, it’s unfair to extrapolate any major lessons from one interview with one person, but the interview is a reminder of a common problem: undecided voters tend to be deeply uninformed voters. That creates a related challenge for both sides of the political divide: how do you connect with millions of Americans who deliberately don’t pay attention?