The Sun Revolves Around the Swing Voter
Every American grassroots activist and political campaign is focused on the swing voter. In the 2012 election cycle, the lion’s share of campaign resources; time, volunteer efforts, and money are devoted to learning about the preferences of this group. Identification is followed by more money funneled into messaging geared to these still undecided voters. Swing voters avoid primaries, so direct contact is required to determine their political ideology or what issues push their hot buttons. An obscene amount of effort is devoted to learning about this relatively small group of people who shift the leadership of the most powerful country in the world. The true swing voters are less ideological and therefore we can assume, less partisan than reliable Democrat or Republican voters. At first blush, one might consider less partisanship a positive quality, but slogans and heart tugging commercials have previously trumped education and substantive information. There will be no discussion of founding principles and certainly no debate about Keynesian versus Austrian economic theory. Campaigns still boil their messaging down to an emotional theme. In 2012, envy and fear are the big winners. For the first time, capitalism and individual achievement may lose the battle to a collectivist onslaught initiated in the White House and propagated by the lapdog media. The swing voter laments the fact that people in government cannot embrace bipartisanship; that Congress can’t get along and get things done. Those voters really must decide exactly what they want to happen. The right believes they are defending America’s founding principles of a Constitutionally limited government which they view as a sacred trust that must be defended to the death. Likewise, progressive Democrats believe the Constitution must evolve through time to provide government the flexibility to manage, or as the left says, “improve” the lives of citizens. I don’t see how one reconciles the view that government is the best place to look for answers to society’s problems, contrasted with government is the problem. It comes as not surprise to anyone paying attention to U.S. politics, Democrat voters have become more statist and at least some, Republican voters have become more freedom-oriented in their views and values, while also becoming more solidified in their ideology. So, even as the voter base grows, the number of swing voters is shrinking and varies as a percentage of the total electorate from state to state; this measure of swing voters, referred to as “elasticity”, is one of several key indicators of how many voters may potentially be persuaded in a given election. According to political writer Nate Silver of the New York Times, “Elastic states are those which have a lot of swing voters — that is, voters who could plausibly vote for either party’s candidate. A swing voter is very likely to be an independent voter, since registered Republicans and registered Democrats vote with their party at least 90 percent of the time in most presidential elections.” Ohio, the perpetual swing state, falls within the top 20 for elasticity, meaning more independent voters could be persuaded to change their vote than 30 other states. One caveat; beware of betting the ranch on statistical models of swing voters, because the variables and motivations are myriad. Someone could forgo political primaries and still be a dependable conservative or progressive voter. According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Washington Post, self-described independents were interviewed in an attempt to determine their real political leanings. a third of American voters call themselves independents, but upon further questioning, the study shows that only 13% of that group (5% of the electorate) are “true” swing voters.” Twenty-Four percent remain unengaged and will not vote; hard to imagine, wouldn’t you agree? Thirty-two percent are disguised Democrats and Thirty-One percent are disguised Republicans. That means only five percent of the electorate are susceptible to persuasion! As an aside, it shocks our sensibilities to realize about two billion dollars will be spent to influence the votes of only 6 million American voters. Our polarized country is about 47.5% split on two starkly different ideologies and we cannot say for certain where Mitt Romney’s 47% of net takers land in this scenario. The majority of those folks will vote Democrat, but if a large number are normally Republican voters, the game gets very tough. We must hope that a portion of the notorious 47% are seniors who sacrificed in WW II and Korea for the values they see slipping away under this administration. They are the greatest generation and they realize that nothing exists for their grandchildren without massive entitlement reforms. Hopefully, pandering to their fears of financial insecurity will not win the day with these swing voters. To drill down a bit on the makeup of swing voters, this five to seven percent, it makes perfect sense that big money is spent to influence these people, as 92% are registered to vote and they do actually vote for candidates of both parties. The curse is that these voters generally hold fiscal conservative and socially liberal views. And in one respect it is a curse, because the left, will exploit the divide on social issues like gay marriage or abortion, avoiding the needed discussion on unchecked federal spending and staggering national debt. Depending on who you ask, either seven or nine swing states are up for grabs in 2012, while another three states hold an outside chance for an upset. The seven most contested states are Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa and Virginia. Vast sums of money will be spent in these seven states with the lion’s share spent to corral Ohio’s 18 votes and Florida’s 29 electoral votes. Swing voters may not realize the gravity of their decision until after the November Election is over, but they have the power to close a major chapter in human history, if they decide the great American experiment in freedom should end.