The Collegian
Monday, February 26, 2024

Voters must be wary of over-simplifying election

Richmond '10

Every week now we find ourselves inundated with numerous polls being conducted on the coming Presidential election and the subsequent results being released. Several weeks ago things were looking up for John McCain as he led in several reputable polls and seemed as though he at least had a chance to squeeze out a victory. Since that time there has been a definite swing in favor of Barack Obama. The financial crisis has brought the economy to the forefront of the national debate and this has advantaged Obama tremendously. Recently, Obama has been leading in major polls ranging from the AP to the renowned Rasmussen Report. Although the election still looms in the future, the results of these polls are very telling about both our country and its voters.

Why is John McCain losing ground? America seems set on simplifying this election to the bare minimum. The average voter has been led to believe that republicans are stronger on national security and the democrats rule the day in terms of economic issues. Evidence of this can be seen on an anecdotal level by comparing public opinion after recent landmark events.

When Russia decided to aggressively invade Georgia, Americans immediately began to consider foreign policy as the issue du jour. McCain was deemed more experienced and stronger when it came to protecting the country -- both because he was republican and because of his track record on such issues. The polls reflected a surge for McCain (that was admittedly boosted by his timely selection of Palin which energized the Conservative base). The next big event to happen was the financial crisis that brought Wall Street to its knees. Sure enough Barack Obama charged ahead in the major swing states and head-to-head polls.

Many of the voter interviews that were conducted showed voters citing the democrats as better economically - and thus better able to confront the crisis. Polling on individual election issues has reflected a similar skewing in regards to the economy and national security.

Regardless of one's personal beliefs, such a stereotyping mentality of our parties is both regressive and dangerous. The problem with an approach of this sort is two-fold. First, the economy and national security are obviously not the only issues that must be considered when electing a president. Sadly, lost in the current debate is a focus on immigration, energy policies, the entitlement crisis, health care, judicial nominees, etc. The attuned voters have a laundry list of such issues and carefully sort through them to determine which candidate best matches the majority of their beliefs. Many Americans (and particularly swing voters) do not make time for this practice though and rather sway their votes depending on one or two large issues.

The second problem with stereotyping our parties is that it is unfair to both republicans and democrats. For example, a democrat might consider his party very strong on foreign policy and security through a doctrine of negotiatory diplomacy. On the opposite end of the spectrum a republican could claim that his party platform was better equipped to help the economy grow via across the board tax cuts.

I want to make clear that political differences are vitally important to our country, and that there are vast differences between republicans and democrats. Differences are most effective, however, when they are understood in their entirety. Many pundits have complained of American voters being "dumbed down" citing various reasons as the cause. I tend to stop just short of such a generalization and cynical attitude. That being said, Americans need to work harder to prove such naysayers wrong. All the issues need to be brought to the table and neither party should be awarded an automatic advantage in any area.

Contact writer Jarrett Dieterle at

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