Friday, August 03, 2012

The Persuadables

Polarization is the rule in 2012 it seems, and the conventional wisdom is that relatively few voters in Ohio, Florida and Virginia are likely to decide the presidential election.  Several billion dollars will be spent trying to persuade voters, one way or another.  All that is certain about this process is that if you own a media company, your ad revenue this fall is going to be very, very good.

But I believe there are persuadable voters, and they can best be persuaded by information provided by their friends.

Political arguments over hot button ideologically- defined issues are fruitless, as are most arguments over the relative merits of a party or a candidate.  But polls typically show that most political information (the facts as well as the lies and effluvia) is just being ignored.  This provides an opening into which information can be received from an informal source, especially on a few key topics that concern everyone.

Greg Sargent in the Washington Post writes about a Hofstra University poll which supports what other polls have shown: a lot of people who take different positions on general issues and propositions wind up agreeing on specifics important to their lives.  In this case, the study was of suburban voters:
"* More than seven in 10 suburban residents say they favor cutting federal spending in general. But when you get specific, 87 percent oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits. And 65 percent support increasing government spending on infrastructure and public works projects.

* A majority, 51 percent, says government regulation of business usually “does more harm than good.” But when you get specific, nearly two thirds of them say the environment should be protected by doing ”whatever it takes.” Even when you add into the equation that regulation might cost jobs, a bare majority still says strict environmental laws and regulations are worth the cost."

These seem to me to be persuadable voters.  They probably do not know that the Ryan plan that Romney promises to follow will turn Medicare into a voucher program and end Medicare as Americans have known it, used it and liked it.  They probably don't know that the Ryan budget also threatens the integrity of Social Security.

They probably don't know that the Ryan plan and Romney himself promise to cut vital environmental regulations that safeguard communities and resources from predatory corporations.

And by the way, they probably don't know that the Obama administration has cut their taxes, or that Obamacare is responsible for the check they might be getting next month from their health insurance company, compensating them for the money the company spent on p.r. instead of providing care.

But it may not be necessary to go beyond Medicare and Social Security.  These are such vital programs and of such non-controversial longstanding that people simply assume them.  It should be remembered that an early Tea Party demonstration featured the sign "Keep government out of my Social Security."  People don't necessarily relate the program with the government, or with the political danger it is in.

There are some people who honestly believe that voucher programs, stock investments and other forms of privatization are not just methods for corporations to make easy and huge profits but as the only way these programs can be saved.  But even without getting into the details, it may be something of a revelation to many people that these programs may be threatened if Romney is elected.  Even Tea Party people get sick, and there's no ideological qualification for getting old. 

By the way, the Hofstra poll shows that President Obama has made up 8 points among suburban voters and is now essentially tied.  Another story quotes "Roslyn political consultant Brad Gerstman, who has worked with both major political parties, said swing voters "do not want to see fringe ideology on either side. They want to see pragmatic ideas that move the country forward."

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