Are You Ready To Vote?
While there are still three months to go before the November elections, it seems that we have been in the midst of the campaign forever. I have always been interested in the reasons why people vote for specific candidates. For some people, a single issue is predominant. For others, it is a party affiliation. Some people support one candidate simply because they dislike the other candidate more.
For me, it is a somewhat complicated process. First, I try to assess candidates in terms of my personal values and priorities. Realizing a long time ago that there are no perfect candidates, I try to determine whether or not the candidate holds similar views on a wide range of issues. I am also very interested in assessing character and leadership. I want my elected officials to be people who act ethically and morally demonstrating honesty and integrity.
Finally, I also judge candidates from my professional perspective and their positions related to education in general and higher education in specific. I am interested in voting for people who support programs that provide increased access and affordability for students and recognize the value of private, independent colleges and universities.
The real challenge for me is to see through the rhetoric and the media spin and determine the candidates’ actual views and values. This is a long and difficult process that requires great effort. While I would be fine without any more TV commercials, I am always interested in speeches, interviews and the pre-election debates. And I am typically gathering information and assessing candidates right up until the last day.
With my mindset and approach, I was surprised to read the results of a recent Pew Research Center study with the headline, “Most Say They Already Know Enough about the Candidates.” According to this research, 90% of the voters say that they already know what they need to know about Obama, and 69% say the same about Romney.
One could argue that the voters have had over three years to assess Obama and observe his policies and beliefs. But there are still many who express concerns about their perception that candidate Obama acted differently after he was elected, and he has shared little of substance about his agenda for a second term.
I really wonder how almost 70% of the voters could know enough about Romney. He is just beginning to share his policy views and his record has demonstrated some evolving positions since his time as the Governor of Massachusetts.
Perhaps this research really reflects less about the full knowledge of the candidates, their views and their policy positions, and more about the approach many voters take to choosing a candidate. The most surprising statistic in the Pew Research was that only 60% of the respondents (the survey included almost 3,000 adults) knew that Romney was a Mormon, and 49% knew that Obama was a Christian. While a vast majority of respondents (over 80%) in this and every other survey indicate the importance of “strong religious beliefs," large numbers know little or nothing about the candidates’ faith, and very few are interested in finding out more. For example, only 16% of the respondents want to learn more about Romney’s religious beliefs.
While I am pleased that a candidate’s religion is less of an issue (I am old enough to remember the challenge John F. Kennedy faced running for President as a Catholic), it would seem that in order to determine if someone had “strong religious beliefs,” one would need to know something about his/her religious practice.
Why do people choose candidates? What information do they need to make an informed decision? What issues, beliefs, values are most important? According to this research … a majority of Americans are ready to vote. Are you? I know I am not.
(As always, your comments and questions are welcome.)