Undecided Voters

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As the political climate of the United States becomes ever more polarized, more and more voters make up their minds about elections both easily and early. Most American voters probably made their choice for the upcoming presidential election sometime before 2004 — they’ve just been waiting to fill in the name of their chosen candidate.

Media personalities love to mock anyone who might reach the end of October with the decision still unmade. They’re sure such voters are lazy, weak, or stupid.

But not every voter wants to ride the political prejudice train. Some voters don’t think that a particular stance on gay marriage should necessarily be coupled with a given stance on the Affordable Care Act. Some voters don’t think that wanting to raise military spending just trails along nicely after wanting to cut welfare spending. Some voters don’t put Palestine and PBS in the same boxcar.

Voters who don’t take their politics prepackaged have to examine each candidate’s statements on each issue to see how well those statements line up with their own views — and it’s never a perfect match. Then they have to weigh each issue against every other issue to determine their relative importance in this election. Even if only a dozen issues mattered, that’d still yield about 40 million pairwise comparisons. And finally they have to try to estimate how much each candidate is lying about his or her take on each issue — they all seem to lie at least a bit, and many do a lot.

This takes a while. And some of these complicated and difficult assessments (like how much a candidate is lying) are best made with as much evidence as possible, forcing a delay in casting one’s ballot until it’s time to, well, cast one’s ballot.

No part of the process of reaching a careful and deliberate multiple-choice decision based on a complicated set of political issues combined with impromptu psychoanalyses is lazy, weak, or stupid. If you want to find lazy, weak, or stupid voters, look among those who chose their candidates for 2012 back in George W. Bush’s first term, based entirely on which one had the grooviest mascot.

Sorry to all those in the media who are annoyed that they couldn’t confidently predict the outcome of this election in May. But perhaps undecided voters just understand that when an “election really matters,” it shouldn’t be decided in “a hot minute.”

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