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Old 02-23-2020, 11:32 PM
nelliebly is online now
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Talk Swing Voters to Me


Are there any? If so, who are they? That is, are they the voters who were somehow undecided but who ended up voting for Trump?

Are they more likely to vote for "the devil they know", in other words, Trump, because they're a wishy-washy group who are afraid to vote for someone new? Are they more likely to vote for Trump?

I admit, I've never understood voters who are undecided a week before an election. Seriously? After all the debates, all the editorials, all the (annoying) campaign commercials, you still don't know who you're going to vote for? What are you waiting for, free pizza?

Are undecided/swing voters one monolithic group? Does the 2020 election hinge on them?

Answers to any of these greatly appreciated.
  #2  
Old 02-24-2020, 12:14 AM
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No, I don’t think many exist. They may know that voting is important but don’t want to admit they don’t give a damn. Much easier to say that they’re all crooks and not vote. Think of how many people identify as Christian but are only in church for weddings and funerals.
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  #3  
Old 02-24-2020, 12:27 AM
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Swing voters are voters who don't have a firm commitment to any particular party or movement; whose vote can be swayed by the merits of individual candidates or by the weight of arguments over issues at stake in the election.

Or, to put it another way, swing voters are the voters who actually decide the outcome of the election.
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Old 02-24-2020, 12:43 AM
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There aren't that many swing voters but people forget that close elections are decided by very small margins. The 2016 election was basically a 1% margin or less in three states. 2004 was 2% in Ohio. 2000 was of course a minute fraction of a percent in Florida. Obama-Trump voters were about 11% of Trump voters which is a lot bigger than his margins in the states which won him the election. Romney-Hillary voters were 4% of her voters which is still more than the crucial margins.

The bottom line is that swing voters may be a small part of the total electorate but they are extremely important in deciding close elections. This is an excellent piece by Matt Yglesias which has more details.
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Old 02-24-2020, 05:30 AM
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Many many people pay very little attention to politics. These people aren't necessarily stupid or ignorant. (To the contrary, it may be stupid for me to be so focused on this election, since my influence will be zero.) These people may know very little about the impeachment beyond a few news soundbites.

(I can sympathize with these people. For decades I was devoted to my vocation and avocations. I was an avid reader of some books, but politics held little interest.)

These undecided voters will respond to brief soundbites. This is unfortunate, since the GOP can render its hateful lies into simple single sentences, while truths require more effort to expound.

Undecided voters also respond to personality. They are less interested in the policies of Trump or Sanders than they are in the impressions made watching them on TV. Superficially there is some similarity between Trump and Sanders, and they may both appeal to some undecided voters.
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Originally Posted by nelliebly View Post
...
Are they more likely to vote for "the devil they know", in other words, Trump, because they're a wishy-washy group who are afraid to vote for someone new? Are they more likely to vote for Trump?
A fear I have is this: Some voters who like an angry-old-white-guy style might have chosen Sanders over Trump in 2016, but will now stick with Trump since "things are OK."

A serious recession real soon would be very good news for America and the world. But even if there is a slowdown, Moscow Mitch and Trump's advisors (Putin?) are just smart enough to propose a temporary payroll-tax cut which will keep the working class in line. Sorry.
  #6  
Old 02-24-2020, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by septimus View Post
Many many people pay very little attention to politics. These people aren't necessarily stupid or ignorant. (To the contrary, it may be stupid for me to be so focused on this election, since my influence will be zero.) These people may know very little about the impeachment beyond a few news soundbites.
...

These undecided voters will respond to brief soundbites. This is unfortunate, since the GOP can render its hateful lies into simple single sentences, while truths require more effort to expound.

Undecided voters also respond to personality. They are less interested in the policies of Trump or Sanders than they are in the impressions made watching them on TV. Superficially there is some similarity between Trump and Sanders, and they may both appeal to some undecided voters.
I agree with all of this. I believe there are some people who pay no attention to current events or politics that wake up on election day with zero knowledge of the issues and march into the voting booth and vote based on whatever soundbites they heard that day or on some lies they read on Facebook. If this is only 1% of the people, in many states it will tip the balance.

The number of people who keep up with politics and can be genuinely swayed one way or another I believe is quite small. The secret of winning is to turn out your base and to make good news for your candidate or bad news for the other guy in the last couple days.
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Old 02-24-2020, 09:15 AM
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I think there are far more than the consensus here. The key thing for me is that the way most people deploy it, it's as if the concept of being a "swing voter" depends on there being a binary choice, and these are voters who could swing toward this side, or swing toward that side, depending. In other words, you're a "swing" voter if you're probably going to vote for either the Democrat or the Republican already, but which one is undecided, and you're in the booth on election day going "R or D, R or D, R or D aaaahhhhhh." But in reality, it's only the choice between a Democrat and a Republican that is a binary choice, and there are two other options as well: vote for somebody else, or don't vote. Anybody that could, based on circumstances, choose a different one of those 4 choices is a swing voter, in my opinion. An imaginary candidate could come along and get their vote, or a candidate could take a position that changes their vote (or no vote).

In 2016, the breakdown was 60-some million for Trump, 60-some million for Clinton, 7-8 million for other candidates, 100+ million didn't vote. Some percentage of the Trump, Clinton and "no vote" camps probably could never be persuaded to do something other than what they did. But some of them certainly could. Even if only 10% of the people that didn't vote for a major party candidate in 2016 could have been convinced to do that, that is a massive number of "swings." That's a bigger effect than convincing every single person, 100%, who "threw their vote away" on a third party candidate to vote differently, and could even be a bigger effect than convincing 10% of the other party's voters to vote for you.

If you look at it the way I do, the number of swing voters is enormous, and so yes, definitely the swing voters will decide the election. There are more swing voters than non-swing voters, by my math. And they're very far from monolithic, and it isn't reasonable to write them all off as dumb or uninformed, or ascribe a particular singular motivation to them. There are a million different reasons those people exist. It's just that there's a large number of potential swing voters who a particular candidate or party will write off as unreachable, because they're not likely to be convinced to swing in a given particular direction. But I think that's a different question.
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Old 02-24-2020, 09:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UDS View Post
Swing voters are voters who don't have a firm commitment to any particular party or movement; whose vote can be swayed by the merits of individual candidates or by the weight of arguments over issues at stake in the election.
There may be a few of those, but pretty much all the research says they're overwhelmingly low-information voters with low levels of engagement with politics.

Any swaying of this group, whatever its size, will have little to do with weight of arguments or merits of candidates.
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Old 02-24-2020, 09:56 AM
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I don't think not already knowing a lot about political candidates means they don't understand the merits of candidates. A low level of engagement with politics is not synonymous with stupidity. I have non-political friends who manage to, you know, not get scammed out of their retirement savings and don't have trouble with the "weight of arguments" elsewhere in their lives.
  #10  
Old 02-24-2020, 10:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy Chitwood View Post
I don't think not already knowing a lot about political candidates means they don't understand the merits of candidates. A low level of engagement with politics is not synonymous with stupidity. I have non-political friends who manage to, you know, not get scammed out of their retirement savings and don't have trouble with the "weight of arguments" elsewhere in their lives.
Anyone posting to the Dope is far from representative of the citizenry in general, and their friends as well are likely to be unrepresentative. Your friends prove nothing about low-info, unengaged voters in general.
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Old 02-24-2020, 10:30 AM
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Today's piece by Heather Cox Richardson, Boston College history professor lays out a theory that swing voters are the main target of foreign disinformation.

Quote:
They were pointing out that observers often make the mistake of thinking that Russian disinformation is designed to pit the American left against the American right to sow chaos. But, in fact, they pointed out, Russian disinformation is designed to pit the American left and the American right against the American center, because it is in the great American center that democracy lives.

Last edited by jasg; 02-24-2020 at 10:31 AM.
  #12  
Old 02-24-2020, 10:50 AM
Jimmy Chitwood is offline
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Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
Anyone posting to the Dope is far from representative of the citizenry in general, and their friends as well are likely to be unrepresentative. Your friends prove nothing about low-info, unengaged voters in general.
I think that you're right about SDMB posters not representing the citizenry, certainly, but doesn't that response seem a bit convenient to you? I can assure you that the people in question exist, and I'm not aware of any circumstances that would disqualify their vote from counting. I don't find it very plausible that they prove nothing about unengaged voters, while actually being those.

It smacks to me of a kind of contempt that is really surprising to see embraced in such an ingenuous way, especially right now. As if it's not even an opinion, or as if, maybe, you're not aware of how sweeping a statement you're making. It's an opinion that does seem to be shared by the majority of the unrepresentative sample of people who post here. But I think if I walked around my block and just asked people "hey, do you think people who aren't up on every candidate's positions are overwhelmingly intellectually incapable of being discerning about political arguments," most people would look at me weird and say no, what's your problem? They would think my friends are more representative of the citizenry than your (you have to admit) Dickensian image of a benighted yokel.
  #13  
Old 02-24-2020, 01:56 PM
RTFirefly is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy Chitwood View Post
I think that you're right about SDMB posters not representing the citizenry, certainly, but doesn't that response seem a bit convenient to you? I can assure you that the people in question exist, and I'm not aware of any circumstances that would disqualify their vote from counting. I don't find it very plausible that they prove nothing about unengaged voters, while actually being those.
:sigh:

Unrepresentative samples don't prove jack shit. That's all.
Quote:
It smacks to me of a kind of contempt that is really surprising to see embraced in such an ingenuous way, especially right now. As if it's not even an opinion, or as if, maybe, you're not aware of how sweeping a statement you're making. It's an opinion that does seem to be shared by the majority of the unrepresentative sample of people who post here.
"Unrepresentative samples don't prove jack shit" may be a sweeping statement, but it doesn't make it any less true. Remember Alf Landon's big win over FDR in the 1936 election?
Quote:
But I think if I walked around my block and just asked people "hey, do you think people who aren't up on every candidate's positions are overwhelmingly intellectually incapable of being discerning about political arguments," most people would look at me weird and say no, what's your problem? They would think my friends are more representative of the citizenry than your (you have to admit) Dickensian image of a benighted yokel.
Bolding mine. Nope, didn't say that, thankyewverymuch.

I'm talking about people who aren't paying much attention to politics. That's what 'unengaged' means. That's why you're not going to sway them with the weight of arguments. They won't want to hear them; they aren't interested.

This happens to all of us at one time or another. I spent most of last week in a three-day class to help me prepare for retirement. I learned a lot of useful stuff, but one of our instructors spent half a day on tax avoidance. Now I'm not all that interested in the topic in the abstract, and I was still absorbing a lot of much more basic retirement-related info: I wasn't ready to think about more than the most basic tax issues. So all his arguments about what to do to minimize one's taxes in retirement went in one ear and out the other. A few things stuck with me, but most of it? Not at all.

Does that mean I'm calling myself "intellectually incapable"? Of course not. But I was unengaged. I wasn't interested, so I wasn't paying attention. His arguments meant nothing to me. That's what I'm saying about unengaged, low-info potential swing voters: they're like me, just in a different subject area.
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Old 02-24-2020, 02:20 PM
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We're talking about swing voters. You said, about swing voters, that they are "overwhelmingly" not susceptible to being swayed by "weight of argument or merits of candidates." That's what I'm responding to. It's not like you said "a lot of people don't care" or something. You said swing voters overwhelmingly cannot be swayed by reason.

I said that I know people who don't engage with politics on a day to day basis; haven't, like you said, been paying attention. Other than that those people just don't count, do you have any other basis for saying that someone like that can't be swayed on intellectual grounds (that those arguments would "mean nothing" to them) that isn't based on their intellectual capacity? I am unable to think of any. It sounds to me like you hold these people in contempt because you can't imagine a person having the ability to make a reasoned decision about political candidates, but choosing not to be engaged in the political process. Like you think a person who isn't political can't make
the choice to engage. When I talk to them about these things, I find them to be just ordinary people who will eventually make a rational decision based on their interests, and then disengage again, and who haven't yet decided what that decision will be yet.
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Old 02-24-2020, 02:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy Chitwood View Post
We're talking about swing voters. You said, about swing voters, that they are "overwhelmingly" not susceptible to being swayed by "weight of argument or merits of candidates." That's what I'm responding to. It's not like you said "a lot of people don't care" or something. You said swing voters overwhelmingly cannot be swayed by reason.
Let's roll tape:
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTFirefly View Post
There may be a few of those, but pretty much all the research says they're overwhelmingly low-information voters with low levels of engagement with politics.

Any swaying of this group, whatever its size, will have little to do with weight of arguments or merits of candidates.
They cannot be swayed by reason because they have low levels of engagement with politics.

Sheesh.

Quote:
I said that I know people who don't engage with politics on a day to day basis; haven't, like you said, been paying attention.
I'm thinking more like a year-to-year or decade-to-decade basis.
Quote:
Other than that those people just don't count,
I don't know if they count or not. Maybe they just estimate. Some are combinatorists, some are statisticians.
Quote:
do you have any other basis for saying that someone like that can't be swayed on intellectual grounds (that those arguments would "mean nothing" to them) that isn't based on their intellectual capacity? I am unable to think of any.
I just gave you a big fat example involving myself.

Next example: you. You theoretically read my posts - at least, I post something, and then you post something that purports to be a response, but it turns out that it responds to nothing I said. I make arguments and give examples, and your responses are as if I had never made them. Weight of arguments is clearly not going to sway you.

Last edited by RTFirefly; 02-24-2020 at 02:55 PM.
  #16  
Old 02-24-2020, 03:00 PM
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Well, I sure would say that my observations re: your apparent contempt have been responsive to what you're saying. Otherwise, let's agree to disagree about how stupid I am!
  #17  
Old 02-24-2020, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Jimmy Chitwood View Post
Well, I sure would say that my observations re: your apparent contempt have been responsive to what you're saying.
Well sure, if you want to either ignore or misinterpret everything I said.

I'd have thought that an example involving myself would have put your 'contempt' BS to rest, given that the gist of the example was that the same stuff I'm pointing out about politically unengaged voters also happens to me, and to all of us at one time or another.

But apparently not.
  #18  
Old 02-24-2020, 09:14 PM
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Swing voter = thicker than pig shit, low-information voter who believes he or she should vote, for somebody, but is perpetually afraid that they'll make the wrong choice. They're probably white and from the Rust Belt or Midwest.
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Old 02-25-2020, 06:06 PM
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Thanks for the insightful responses. I'm responding late because I read the linked articles, as well as links in those articles to other articles, and it all took time to digest. The Yglesias piece was especially illuminating. Many thanks, Lantern.

I get that there are people who split tickets and who don't consistently vote for the candidate of one party or the other. Are these people more likely to vote for the incumbent if the economy is doing well?

Who are these people who aren't well-informed, know they're not well-informed and yet vote? How and why do they get up the motivation to vote when they haven't gotten up the motivation to do a little research?

Jimmy Chitwood: How many of those third party voters wouldn't have voted at all if there had been no third party candidates?
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Old 02-26-2020, 07:17 AM
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Don't forget there are people out there who are minimally aware about national politics.

I'm undecided about most elections until the day before, because most of the people in the ballot in any given year are for local positions. I don't know who's on city council. Hell when I lived in IL it seemed like we had to vote for damn near every city employee. I'd do my research the day before. This is obviously less common for national elections but there are people out there who barely know Trump is President and who haven't heard of most of the Dem candidates. They probably won't bother voting. But a few might.
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