Conventional wisdom holds that a huge majority of voters pay little attention to and have little interest in the presidential election until after Labor Day. While this may be true for a ‘normal’ election cycle it will not apply in 2012.
Some indications of elevated voter interest are anecdotal and intuitive, but several specific and identifiable trends offer more solid support for my theory.
First, the contrast between the two candidates’ governing philosophies is starker than any time in my adult life…and I’m sixty-four years old. Some equate this election to 1980. However, as I recall, the focus then was on competence. This year, though competence is a significant element, the determination of whether the socialist or capitalist model as the framework of how our country will proceed in the future is the overarching issue. If that doesn’t garner the voters’ attention early and often, nothing ever will?
Second, voter polarization is at an all-time high. It’s clear the bell shape distribution curve has flattened out. The pool of centrist/moderate/undecided/independent voters is smaller; thus, voters are lining up on one side or the other earlier than in previous elections. That indicates the voters are busily informing themselves, or perhaps reinforcing a pre-existing opinion. Fewer are blissfully ignoring the whole thing until football season.
Third, the candidates’ movements in the polls seem more erratic, sizable fluctuations from one week to next tell me the voters are seeing, hearing or reading something that is stimulating preference changes.
Fourth, the fluctuations are amplified in some voter sub-groups, most recently with black and Jewish voters. The decline of these groups’ support of the Democrat candidate, bucking thirty, forty or fifty year trends, clearly indicate the voters in these groups are collecting and analyzing information that is altering what many thought were ‘hard-wired’ preferences.
Fifth, and a likely contributor to the items above, the issues under debate are extremely high profile:
- Of course, the terrible economy with little indication that it will improve any time soon
- The Supreme Court’s pending Obamacare decision
- A security leak that appears to be coming from the highest levels of the administration
- An embattled Attorney-General embroiled in the ‘Fast and Furious’ scandal
- Obama’s declaration of executive privilege regarding same
- Holder’s decision not to appoint a Special Counsel to investigate the security leaks
- Obama’s extra-constitutional executive order granting targeted amnesty
- A nuclear Iran and higher than usual risk of conflict in the Middle East
- Russian ships sailing to Syria
- Obama’s clueless performance at the G20
- The multi-front battle between the federal government and states over a variety of issues
Then, there are the anecdotal observations of voter intensity.
My frame of reference is primarily a circle of conservative activists, participation in the conservative commentary and social media community and normally apolitical small and medium size business owners. Enthusiasm and motivation would be expected from the first two on list. However, business owners are paying attention now…big time.
Few business-related interactions close without a discussion of politics and the sorry state of the economy and the near impossibility of running a profitable enterprise. I do not initiate these conversations; I do not have to.
Business owners’ sense of rage is palpable. Decades of hard work washed away; dramatic declines in net worth; the necessity of terminating employees with years of loyal service…all have combined to create millions of new activists that are paying attention long before September.
Author, “Powers Not Delegated”…a conservative political thriller
…What Could Have Been and Might Still Be
Available November 2012