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According to Daniel Adler, that is number of people who may decide this election. As we have all heard recently, most independents aren't really independent at all, but identify with one party or the other. When you subtract them and voters in solidly Blue or Red states, we are left with about 916,643 swing voters in a handful of battleground states that can be persuaded and are likely to decide this election. And these are the lest politically engaged people in the nation. These are the people who only voice an opinion when they are asked. When a pollster asks them for their opinion on a given subject, it is likely that they have not formed an opinion or even thought about it until they are asked. But, they feel that they should have an opinion, so they form one on the spur of the moment. These are the people who will make up their minds on the day of the election, and not on a clear ideological basis. Rather then doing the math, so to speak, they will use heuristics shortcuts.

It is on those heuristics that this election hinges.

As Louis Menand puts it in her 2004 New Yorker article The Unpolitical Animal

voters don’t have the time or the inclination to assess them in depth, so they rely on the advice of experts—television commentators, political activists, Uncle Charlie—combined with their own hunches, to reach a decision.
Those hunches often are of a very superficial nature. Think about Dukakis and his helmet, George H. W. Bush showing astonishment at the existence of scanners at supermarket checkout counters, or Ford and the tamale.
Visiting a Mexican-American community in Texas, Ford (never a gaffe-free politician) made the mistake of trying to eat a tamale with the corn husk, in which it is traditionally served, still on it. This ethnic misprision made the papers, and when he was asked, after losing to Jimmy Carter in the general election, what the lesson of his defeat was, Ford answered, “Always shuck your tamales.” Popkin argues that although familiarity with Mexican-American cuisine is not a prerequisite for favoring policies friendly to Mexican-Americans, Mexican-Americans were justified in concluding that a man who did not know how to eat a tamale was not a man predisposed to put their needs high on his list. The reasoning is illogical: Ford was not running for chef, and it was possible to extrapolate, from his positions, the real difference it would make for Mexican-Americans if he were President rather than Reagan or Carter. But Mexican-Americans, and their sympathizers, felt “in their gut” that Ford was not their man, and that was enough.
Seamus might be the deciding factor in this election. But, even Seamus might be undone by the weather.
Findings about the influence of the weather on voter behavior are among the many surveys and studies that confirm Converse’s sense of the inattention of the American electorate. In election years from 1952 to 2000, when people were asked whether they cared who won the Presidential election, between twenty-two and forty-four per cent answered “don’t care” or “don’t know.” In 2000, eighteen per cent said that they decided which Presidential candidate to vote for only in the last two weeks of the campaign; five per cent, enough to swing most elections, decided the day they voted.

Seventy per cent of Americans cannot name their senators or their congressman. Forty-nine per cent believe that the President has the power to suspend the Constitution. Only about thirty per cent name an issue when they explain why they voted the way they did, and only a fifth hold consistent opinions on issues over time. Rephrasing poll questions reveals that many people don’t understand the issues that they have just offered an opinion on. According to polls conducted in 1987 and 1989, for example, between twenty and twenty-five per cent of the public thinks that too little is being spent on welfare, and between sixty-three and sixty-five per cent feels that too little is being spent on assistance to the poor. And voters apparently do punish politicians for acts of God. In a paper written in 2004, the Princeton political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels estimate that “2.8 million people voted against Al Gore in 2000 because their states were too dry or too wet” as a consequence of that year’s weather patterns. Achen and Bartels think that these voters cost Gore seven states, any one of which would have given him the election.

There will be close to 3 billion advertising dollars spent on these 916, 643 voters this election cycle. But, the truth is, they are not likely to be persuaded by those ads. More and more political ads are aimed not at the voter, but at the pundits and Uncle Charlie.

As Daniel Adler points out in his article for Rolling Stone, Political Ads: Overpriced, Inefficient, Essential

So while TV advertising might not be a terribly efficient means of reaching swing voters, it’s probably more efficient than any alternative, since TV still has the broadest reach of any medium. "[Advertising] does have an impact, even if it’s a marginal one,” says Joe Heim, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. "And that marginal impact is worth it."
And even that might be understating things. "Ads now are not just aimed at voters," says Geer. "They are aimed at journalists." Whether or not an ad influences TV viewers directly, it has the potential to "shape the narrative of the campaign." "Probably no more than 1 percent of the American public saw the Swift Boat ad" sliming Democratic Sen. John Kerry’s Vietnam war record, he points out. But come the 2004 election, "80 percent knew the term 'Swift Boat.' That’s coming from the news media."
This election will not be decided by the polarizing issues, which Morris Fiorina thinks is mostly a myth. In his book Culture War? he says “The simple truth is that there is no culture war in the United States—no battle for the soul of America rages, at least none that most Americans are aware of.”

Sure the pudits are polarized, but not these voters. They are too busy living their lives, a life which does not include deep political calculations.  This election will be decided by social networks. Who the 916,643 vote for will be decided by a heuristic largely based on what the pundits and their friends tell them … and that hunch. The battle might be better fought on FaceBook rather than the T.V. screen. And even then, the election might come down to what the weather is like in Wisconsin and Florida on November 6.

So, Uncle Charlie, do the math so your friends don't have to and have a good Seamus joke at hand. Be ready to offer your nephew an umbrella come November 6th, because it is that umbrella that might swing this election.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    revbludge, wyvern, lineatus, bnasley

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 11:01:30 AM PDT

  •  Knock knock. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    se portland, lineatus, JTinDC

    Who's there?
    Seamas.
    Seamas who?
    Seamas sack of shit like Romney ever had a dog.

    •  Q) Why do car elevators stop half way (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      revbludge, JTinDC, bnasley

      between floors?

      A) Because it makes it easier to tie the dog to the roof.

      It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

      by se portland on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 11:46:53 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  How many Mitt Romneys (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        se portland, JTinDC, bnasley

        does it take to change a light bulb?

        Six: one to hire an illegal immigrant to do it, one to fire him, one to outsource his job to China, one to be retired and in Utah the whole friggidy time, and one to STRAP HIS DOG TO THE ROOF OF THE CAR BECAUSE HE IS A TOTAL FREAKING ASSWIPE.

    •  America could save millions on heathcare (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      revbludge

      cost by getting rid of sirens on ambulances and tying dogs to the roofs instead.

      [Alright, that one wasn't very good.]

      It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

      by se portland on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 12:09:47 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I am driving down the road... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      revbludge

      and I see Romney with his dog tied to the roof of his car. So, I pull up beside him and say."Hey Mitt, you have your dog tied to the roof of the car."

      Willard says, "What?"

      I yell "Mitt you have have YOUR DOG TIED TO THE ROOF OF YOUR CAR!".

      Mittens says, "I am sorry, can't hear you I have a howling dog tied to the roof of my car."

      It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

      by se portland on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 12:57:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Let's.. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    se portland, revbludge, jlms qkw

    ..breaking that 916,643 down a little:

    Let's assume this 916,643 is a melting pot of all the demographics.

    This 916,643 will consist of no African-Americans voting for Romney.

    This 916,643 will consist of very few Latinos voting for Romney.

    This 916,643 will probably include a minority of women voting for Romney.

    In essence, if this 916,643 is going to carry the day for Republicans, this 916,643 will have to consist of a vast majority of white males.

    If there is a mathematical path to this 916,643 being around 90% white males, then please share it with us.

    Because I don't see it.

    Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate. ~ Proverbs 22:22

    by wyvern on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 11:25:00 AM PDT

    •  I wonder how much of it consists (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      se portland, jlms qkw, JTinDC, nzanne

      of young voters 18 to 22 who would be voting for the first time, who are basically overgrown teens not interested in politics or much of anything except peer-group stuff. How to reach them?

      •  That is the $64,000 question (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        revbludge, jlms qkw

        I don't think they are as fired up as they were in 2008. How do you get them to vote?

        It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

        by se portland on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 11:40:15 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Several months ago, here, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          se portland, revbludge

          there was a great diary about encouraging people to be "voters" rather than to "vote."

          An interesting study had been done about the two words and the turnout that resulted.

          Asking folks whether they'd be voters made them actually stand up and do it, versus voting, which was just another obligation in an already busy day.

          Just googled it; can't find it.

          "I can't do it by myself. No president can. Remember: Change doesn't happen from the top. It happens because of you." B Obama, 2008

          by nzanne on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 03:18:52 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Ford lost because of Nixon (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    se portland

    Nothing to do with Tamales.

    •  Sorry for the formatting (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Rizzo

      I know what you are saying and I agree, but Nixon does not explain the shift in Hispanic votes between 1976 and 1980. The tamale did make a difference.

      The columns are Carter in 1980, Reagan in 1980, Carter in 1976 and Ford in 1976. In 1980 Democrats got 54% of the Hispanic vote, in 1976 they got 75%

      Ethnicity

      Black         82    14    82    16
      Hispanic    54    36    75    24

      It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

      by se portland on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 02:27:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Issues. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        se portland

        The likely reason Carter got 56 % of the Hispanic vote (which is the exact opposite of the vote by whites) in 1980 because of The Contras and the threat of war in Central America.  

        Nothing to do with Tamales.

        (Actually, the funding for The Contras, began under Carter, but his arm was twisted, and everyone knew that Reagan wanted to expand all these wars. )

        •  Maybe so (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Rizzo

          but I think the point that Samuel Popking was trying to make was that seemingly minor incidents in a campaign  can have big influences in elections with an uninformed electorate.

          You and I are thinking like rational voters or what might be called 'ideologues.' Were the voters you are talking about truly aware of the of the Contras threat and war, or were they more concerned with buying their kids shoes?

          My point was that many, if not most, people are not paying that close attention to the intricacies of polices and vote as best they can, largely on advise of others that they trust. How many votes did Gore lose with the false quote of "I invented the Internet?" Or was it his position on Croatia?

          [By the way I enjoy the chance to debate and don't mean to sound augmentative.]

          It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

          by se portland on Sat Aug 25, 2012 at 03:43:39 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  "As we have all heard recently" (0+ / 0-)
    "most independents aren't really independent at all, but identify with one party or the other..."
    And then there are those of us who really did prefer to vote for someone not only not Bush, But Also someone not Gore, as I thought he should have distanced himself from Clinton sooner, and various other reasons I was never planning to vote for him. In fact, I had a candidate, from a third, independent party, whom I wished to vote FOR. I felt good, voting for someone, rather than casting a negative vote for the lesser of two evils because 'it would be my fault if Bush won.' G-ddammit I got sick of being told that, when Gore never did win MY vote  and everyone just seems to expect that if I wasn't voting for Bush it must be Gore. How can anyone 'really be independent at all' in a duplex system that makes it's own rules from the inside, excluding third parties like the two-headed hydra my candidate called it?

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