2006: A Victory For the Clueless?

Both the establishment centrists and the grassroots within the Democratic party are claiming the 2006 victory as their own. But what’s really terrifying is that the group which pushed the Democrats over the top probably were the utterly clueless and indesicive voters. From CNN, comes this exit poll:


TOTAL Democrat Republican

Today (10%) 61% 36%

Last Three Days (9%) 51% 47%

Last Week (9%) 52% 47%

Last Month (21%) 54% 44%

Before Then (50%) 54% 45%

If you compare the breakdown of Democrats versus Republicans among those who decided on voting day versus those who decided before voting day, those who decided on voting day were more likely to vote Democratic (G = 10.172; p = 0.0014; df = 1). I’m glad they made up their minds the way they did, but damn, that’s scary. How could you not have paid attention for, let’s say, the last two years? Of course, that 19% didn’t decide until three days before the election doesn’t give me much optimism either. In many races, there were stark differences between the Republican and Democrat; how much confusion could there have been?
I’m still waiting for some good political scientists to tackle what makes these types of voters tick (or maybe some already have?).

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6 Responses to 2006: A Victory For the Clueless?

  1. revere says:

    Jeez. Just when I was starting to feel good about the results!

  2. bigTom says:

    Normally I would think that not deciding until very late was a good thing. Let in all the data, and discussions then make the decision. This cycle, things were so clear to this “compulsive centrist” that I had been decided months ago. But yes this is just one more anecdotal piece of evidence that most of these new Democratic voters are not heavily committed. It will be tough to keep them. Thats actually a good thing, we’ve just seen how corrupt a party which takes its winning status for granted can become.

  3. Joshua says:

    Actually, I think the phenomenon here is a bit of self-deception. That is to say, the sampled voters are reporting based on their perceptions of “fairness”.
    “Fairness” is a very powerful moral tool. People like to consider themselves “fair”. A “fair” voter would gather all the information possible before making a decision, which implies waiting until the last moment possible.
    If you look at the data, the numbers of Republicans and Democrats stayed constant until the voters who decided “today”, who went overwhelmingly toward Democrats. My interpretation is that the pre-decided voters were largely partisan. They have a strong allegiance toward one party and no reason to hide it. That final 10%, though, are the fabled “swing” voters. They may have actually decided long before the election, but they don’t identify with any party. Rather, they identify with being “fair”, so they report accordingly.
    Of course, that’s all speculation, but I think it’s a reasonable hypothesis.

  4. bigTom says:

    I suspect that the substantial number of R voters, who voted D just this one time, might be clustered into this group.

  5. sciencedave says:

    I wonder at your wondering at people being undecided.
    I think that anyone who has lived long enough to see power shift back and forth recognizes that the toss up is a question of whether the frying pan or fire is more pleasant. The corruption and incompetence eventually wakes enough of the electorate up to toss the bastards out. Whichever bastards happen to be in at the time. It is generally not a ringing endorsement for the ones elected. It is a ratio of disgust to inertia that finally gets high enough to risk letting unknowns take control.
    I think that’s what the whole Kerry debacle was about. Dems fronted someone who was not, to the most disengaged voters, any less dickless than Bush. Bush was plenty vulnerable, but the opposition was not obviously coherent enough. Then Bush had a couple more years to fuck up, and people got sick of it. It is not that they like or trust democrats. The cycle tends to hit a crescendo when a party a) alienates their natural base, which Bush has done with small-government/fiscal conservatives, civil libertarians that might lean right, and religious people, and b) the opposition party becomes temporarily coherent enough to gain traction with the disengaged.
    I just hope the dems do some good before settling in, and heading down the road to corruption and incompetence. Ever since 2000, so many of my friends have seemed to pin such hopes on the democrats. I am quite happy to see them in power, but I imagine they will be disappointing. The warm glow of “anybody but Bush and the republicans” will wear off quickly, I suspect. The reality is that it is difficult to govern even when you are not evil, stupid, or incompetent.
    As for paying attention, of course most people aren’t. And to the extent that they do, they are not convinced the other party would do better. These factors alone account for the cynical way people in power are able to retain it by sowing doubt and misinformation.
    I remembered seeing something in Slate around the last election:

    Even for the most passionate partisan, it’s hard to argue that voting is a good use of your time. Instead of waiting in line to vote, you could wait in line to buy a lottery ticket, hoping to win $100 million and use it to advance your causes–and all with an almost indescribably greater chance of success than you’d have in the voting booth.

    People don’t pay attention because they don’t feel any effects one way or another. There are effects, but these are lost on most, in my experience.

  6. Gerry L says:

    In Oregon, where we vote by mail, plenty of people vote soon after they get their ballots — two weeks before election day. A few weeks ago I read an article about making vote-by-mail the national standard. One opponent of the idea protested that it would be a bad thing because if someone voted early then what if something happened in the last few days to make them change their mind, like a terrorist attack?
    Yes. Certainly. Your vote should be decided by sudden events and last ditch negative campaign commercials. Priorities and competence count for little.

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