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Ear to the Ground

Study: To Win Votes, Motivate Your Base

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Posted on Jul 18, 2011
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Numbers from a recent Pew Research Center study contradict the conventional thinking on independent voters. Independents are not moderates who can be swayed to the right or left with appeals to moderation and centrism, but “disaffected political partisans” (in the words of the Daily Kos), rebels unhappy with the politicians and parties they feel have betrayed the issues they care about most.

In a related study, those who reported “leaning” toward liberalism rated as being stronger supporters of gay marriage, universal health care and the right to choose than self-identifying Democrats. Based on that data, the prudent political scientist will win independents by making hard right or left turns in the campaigns ahead, rather than keeping to the middle of the road. —ARK

Daily Kos:

Pew Research Center released a study of independent voters last (May) that may help refute the Washington conventional wisdom. That CW, roughly, states that independent voters are middle of the road moderates who don’t support either party but swing their votes to and fro depending on what is important to them. They are fiscal conservatives who want a balanced budget. They are pragmatic centrists who want bipartisan solutions to every problem. They don’t like partisan bickering or political fighting. What they want is a harmonious, fiscally prudent government that doesn’t do too much or too little. Sort of a walking army of Midwestern Lutheran insurance actuaries.

The conventional wisdom on independents is, naturally, completely wrong. Independents are not a monolithic group of moderates. In fact, they are very diverse in their political opinions and there isn’t a “move to the middle” formula that will win them over. Moderates, in fact, are now overwhelmingly Democrats. Independents are, for the most part, disaffected political partisans.

... It is highly unlikely that folks who lean toward either party, and remember the vast majority of independents lean, are going to swing their votes to and fro between the parties. What is likely, however, is that many independents may not be as motivated to vote as strong or weak partisans. To solve this problem, the parties need to motivate them to vote. Since the matrix of issues that motivate independents will more or less coincide with those issues that motivate party partisans, political strategists should do something counter-intuitive to the conventional wisdom: To win independents, motivate your base.

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By Ben Donahower, July 20, 2011 at 6:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I wonder if the converse is true: that partisans tend
to be more moderate.  I have seen this with parties
supporting moderate candidates that they think will
play well in the general election.  Of course, this
could be because of the false view that, as this post
notes, that independents are moderate or it could be
because that people involved in a political party are
more moderate for some reason.

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By Jonno, July 19, 2011 at 10:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The Democrats will never get “the memo”, because their pitch to the “independent center” is wholly ideological. Obama, as he thoroughly explained in the recently circulated video of him lecturing a group of college students, gives away the farm to Republicans in negotiations not because he is inept, but because that is what he wants to do.

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By EmileZ, July 18, 2011 at 4:12 pm Link to this comment

Kucinich is another good one. Thank you Kucinich!!!

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By lane08, July 18, 2011 at 4:00 pm Link to this comment

The Democrats *still* have not gotten the memo.

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By Sole Prop, July 18, 2011 at 1:51 pm Link to this comment

I left the Democratic Party in the mid-seventies and
became an Independent when the then San Francisco mayor
Dianne Feinstein tried to round up all of the adult
book stores and limit them to a small out of the way
industrial area in the city. As you may guess I have
strong opinions on First Amendment issues. So yes, this
Pew study jibes with my own (limited to me and some few
others) experience.

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By EmileZ, July 18, 2011 at 12:56 pm Link to this comment

I was tempted not to say anything at all.. Ha ha ha!!!

Yes, I am about to speak my mind whatever the case. I must be truthful and honest with all my dear sweet internet followers. I love you. I trust you. I know you will hear me out.

Ok… People in positions of power can accomplish much. They can do great thing provided they know what they are doing and what they want to accomplish. Obama seems to have been quite successful in this. He knew he wanted to sell out his base and make deals with corporations. He knew early on that he wanted single-payer to be excluded from what passed as the health care debate in the mainstream media (as well as price negotiating for prescription drugs… after all it was Bush’s bill and he couldn’t be blamed, meanwhile pharmeceutical companies are robbing the american people, but who cares). He knew that he wanted to placate the military-industrial complex at any cost and support its past, present and future actions, be in effect a cheerleader and spokesman in chief for a war on terror narrative that very few Americans buy in to any longer, and are ashamed to have been part of in the first place. He knew he wanted to craft some sort or bi-partisan deficit reduction deal early on, meaning he wanted to cut social security, and medicaide (as well as medicare). He never, ever actually thought about possibly trying to fix the economy. He just wanted to make the approved moves so he could continue to blame it on the Republicans. He has no desire to change the conversation. He has no desire to change the debate. He wants “liberals” to speak up only so he can spurn them and claim bi-partisanship. He is so worthless that many of us are fantasizing about how things might have gone better with a McCain presidency.

Switch in Bernie Sanders for Obama and we would have a hopeful country on the rise. Caring for and encouraging each other and not morbidly speculating about “the rise of China” or the end of the world (the latter being a justified thought). And no media outlet, or combination of media outlets could hold us back. A man like Senator Sanders could (and has) cut through this so-called debate we are apparently having like a hot knife through room temperature butter. It is bullshit!!!

I will NEVER AGAIN vote for a man like Barack Obama!!!

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By lasmog, July 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm Link to this comment

Apparently, the Republicans have known this since 1980, while the Democrats are just now getting the memo.

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