The American Voters: Dissatisfied? Distracted? Or Just Don't Care?" LONG (but it could be longer... ;-) : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread

I thought this was an interesting (hope some of you do to). I'm esp. interested in the part I underlined. Any thoughts?

fair use. yada, yada...

"The American Voters: Dissatisfied? Distracted? Or Just Don't Care?" 

The Pew Research Center has offered us this opportunity to be briefed on their newest very important report on the American Voter 2000. And we will be hearing from the director, Andrew Kohut. Formerly, he was the president of Gallup Organization. He and his organization are certainly in our opinion the finest non-commercial political survey organization in the United States. We are very pleased to have him with us.

The transcript of this program will be very shortly today on the Brookings web site, for those of you who want to go back and see it, read it, at on our home page. And for those of you who want to see it through your Internet, it will be shown on the Information Superstation, which is And we thank them for being with us.

 Let me just say that for those of us who follow these things closely in Washington, the 2000 election is an election of considerable consequence and significance for the future of this country. And yet our polling data up to now shows that the American people have chosen not to notice.

Let me just quickly review where we are. First of all, of course, all of the polling data, including what we will hear today tells us that this is going to be a very close election. That's unusual. That's not the usual condition in America. In the 20th Century, 25 presidential elections, there were only four close elections. So, you would think, like in any contest that's close, that Americans would be more interested. And yet, so far, they aren't. It is an election in which a president is not running. On January 20th there will be a new president. And this, too, is not the usual condition in the 20th Century, in 25 elections, only six times was a president not running. When a president runs, our decision is pretty easy, basically, it's a vote of confidence or no confidence. Should we keep the person we've known, or should we throw the rascal out.

But when no president is running, as in the case here, we expect them to present to us their vision of the future. And, in fact, the two major contenders have been very serious about this. They have and are discussing the most important issues to us from Social Security to national security, but by campaign standards with programs of considerable specificity. And, again, the American people are choosing not to pay much attention.

We even have two interesting minor parties giving us alternative visions of the future.

And we know that the Supreme Court is ideologically split five to four. Every president of our lifetime with the exception of poor, unlucky Jimmy Carter chose at least one Supreme Court Justice while they were in office. So, again, this is an election not only about the future of the presidency, at least for the next four years, but the future of the Supreme Court.

We have a situation in which the House of Representatives can swing from one party to the other with a half a dozen seats, unprecedented. And, we even, for that matter, have an election in a decennial year, where the state gubernatorial, state legislature and gubernatorial elections, could influence the way the House of Representatives is redistricted two years hence. So, everything is in play.

And yet, it seems from our polling data that the American people are either dissatisfied, distracted, or just don't care

Andrew Kohut: I'm happy to be here, and I'd like to tell you about the survey findings from this report which most struck us. This is the third edition of this particular survey. Eight years ago, the first edition was conducted for the then Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press, we are now the Pew Center for the People and the Press. And in that survey we wrote that there were signs of a potential upturn in vote totals in the fall as we compared our results in our first survey in the series to previously conducted Gallup polls.

Four years ago at this time, we wrote that turnout indicators were sagging, these same turnout indicators, were sagging compared to 1992. And, indeed, they did. Turnout fell from a very healthy, unusually high 55 percent in 1992, that's 55 percent of the voting age eligible population turning out, to only 49 percent in 1996.

The 2000 edition of this survey suggests that perhaps we'll have an even bleaker picture than 49 percent in the fall But the evidence for our conclusion that turnout may fall again is that fewer Americans told us in this survey and other surveys where we've asked this question, that they've given a great deal of thought to the presidential campaign.

In 1992 at this time, 52 percent said they had thought a great deal about it.

In 1996 at this time, 42 percent.

In the current survey, only 38 percent.

Similarly, our monthly news interest index surveys have found since the end of the primaries less--fewer people following news about the campaigns.

Eight years ago, 65 percent were paying some attention to campaign news.

Four years ago, 62 percent.

And in the currency survey 55 percent.

Now, if we only had that finding, we wouldn't come to this conclusion, because there is clearly less news in these newspapers. But we also find people telling us that they are less interested, or fewer of them are saying they're more interested this year than in the two previous surveys in the cycle.

In 1992, 55 percent described themselves as more interested this time.

In 1996, it was 42 percent.

And it fell to 38 percent with the current survey.

So, all three of these things, which have been pretty good indicators of which way the participation rates would go in the previous two presidential elections, point to lower turnout, or at least somewhat lower turn out in 2000 than in 1996. And clearly I would bet a substantial amount of money we won't be looking at anything close to 1992.

Now, what the most striking thing about these findings is to us was that even though people are less engaged and less interested, they are happier with the choice of candidates than they were eight years ago and four years ago. Bear with me, I'll read you some more statistics.

In 1992, 38 percent in June said that they were satisfied with the choice of candidates that faced them.

Four years ago, it was 46 percent.

And in this year it's 64 percent.

That's a very healthy rise in contentment with what faces the electorate. Now, this isn't only a matter of Republicans being happier with George W. Bush than Dole, in fact, satisfaction with the slate increased from 36 percent to 52 percent among Independents. So there's even more satisfaction among Democrats

The News Media gets better grades. Most people say the media is providing the right amount of coverage, neither too much nor too little. And the percentage saying it's doing an excellent or good job rose modestly from 42 percent to 48 percent. Now, that's nothing to write home about, but it's at least going in the right direction.

What's different in this survey is that our respondents did not place as much importance as in previous surveys on who is elected president.

One in five flatly agreed with the statement that who is elected is not as important as it was in the 1970s and '80s, and perhaps more tellingly our trend measure found 30 percent saying it does not make much difference who is elected, and that's up from 18 percent who said that in 1992 and 18 percent who said that in 1976. Nearly half agree with the statement that things will be pretty much the same no matter who is elected, and that's about the same measure that ORC got on that question in 1976 on the heels of Watergate, and as we were still recovering from an oil recession, oil embargo based recession.

In my opinion, the views about the importance of the choice that people say they're going to make may reflect two things, how they feel about the candidates, and how they feel about the times, and the way those two things play off of each other, and half of our sample said they were having trouble choosing between Bush and Gore because neither of them are qualified. In a split sample, that is in the other half sample, when we change the word to either, we found almost as many saying that they were having trouble choosing because either candidate would be qualified. A bare majority of voters think Gore and Bush have different positions in issues, in fact the percentage of people saying that they have the same position on issues rose from 24 percent in 1999 at this time to 33 percent. So the campaign is doing just the opposite of what presidential campaigns do. It's making the voters think that the candidates are more alike, not more different.

Also, in good times there is obviously a muted appetite for change. We saw this in a little focus group we did to get our thinking going on this survey, and it plays out in the larger poll. A slim plurality supports the idea that the next president should change course and make major policy changes to solve problems that the country faces. Obviously, there's a real partisan pattern to this question. But even a third of Republicans say, no, don't change policies, don't change courses. And Independents are fairly evenly split on this. There is a great deal of contentment with the times. And there's not a great appetite for change.

What is as consistent as the fall off in the turnout measures is the generational pattern. In every measure on campaign interest and involvement, the fall off is across the board. It's among people of all ages, but it's most sharply apparent among younger people. Only about a half of people under 50 are paying attention, any attention, to campaign news compared to nearly two-thirds of people over 50 years of age. Compared to 1992, increasing number of young people say the reason they don't vote is because of their distaste for politics, and their dislike of candidates. Younger Americans are also much more likely to express doubts about the importance of the choice they make in November, while more people of all ages say it doesn't matter who gets elected, the increase is twice as great among the under 50s in this opinion as it is among the older 50s. Nearly 40 percent of the people under 30 years of age said, it doesn't matter who is elected. This younger generation, these 18 to 30s, are not merely a generation that was raised in a time of peace and prosperity, they are the children of a generation that were raised in a time of relative peace and prosperity.

I would like to conclude and let others comment on this, but I would like to say two things first about the low level of interest that we've found in the campaign. We started out this year with more interest in the campaign and more interest in the candidates than four years ago, and even eight years ago. This is clearly an electorate that's capable of being engaged, but so far this slate of candidates combined with the times have put them into a rather pleasant sleep.

For full transcripts: Link


-- Not now, not likethis (, September 22, 2000


"It's making the voters think that the candidates are more alike, not more different."

That's me. I'm a 30-something, struggling, aspiring member of the middle class. I'm neither poor nor rich enough for most of the so- called tax breaks. Neither mainstream candidate represents my best interests and both are fighteningly comfortable with global agendas. The race is between two men who would sooner give the country to the UN. The only difference that I can see is that Gore might have a slightly larger vocabulary than Bush's speech writers.

-- (raven@never.more), September 22, 2000.

My opinion, on the paragraph you underlined, is the apathy of young people (18 to 30) caused by too much good life. Things are running smoothly for them, compared to the generations living in times of turmoils (WWI, WWII, Vietnam etc.) Why torturing yourself to listening to boring and frustrating politics when you can watch a sitcom instead? They don't pay attention to politics, so they don't learn and understand it. Out of sight, out of mind, and the good times will just keep rolling on. Let someone else worry about politics. "I haven't worried about it until now and the world turns, so why bother."

The young need self-motivation to do anything. Nothing to motivate them to pay attention to politics right now.

I know, I was young once.

-- (, September 22, 2000.

Best said Smarty.

Here again is a Tytler paragraph posted by Al T. last month:

"The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: From bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependencey, and from dependency back into bondage."

Not certain what Tytler's Greeks gained from their "spiritual faith". Maybe a common ground however quaint seeming now but the last half of this quote should hammer home to anyone paying attention.

-- Carlos (, September 22, 2000.

I couldn't wait until I was 18 and was able to resgister to vote! I've voted in every election since then. The .gov has passed amendments since 1800's making ever eaiser for people to vote.

Not to mention the fact that you can register to vote practically anywhere: At the registry when you apply for a license. When you go to the welfare office to do whatever you do there... You can even register by mail. WHich would be the easiest of all.

THEN, you can even vote with an absentee ballot. All you have to do is tell them you are going away on vacation/business/or sick. And viola! They send you a ballot, you fill it out at your leisure (taking ooooh about 3 minutes) and then mail it in.

How can it get any easier? Say what you want about the Evil .Gov (and I do) but they want us to vote and they are always making it easier for us to do.

(Although I think voting should be held on Saturdays and Sundays, this whole tuesday between 7am and 8pm could be the thing that makes it hard on some... who knows?)

Carlos: Sadly, I think what you said has a lot of merit.

Thanks for reading guys,

Mar ;-)

-- Not now, not like this (, September 24, 2000.

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