In a recent survey conducted by the Gallop Poll, Americans were asked to identify themselves on a scale of 1 to 5 – with a score of 1 being very liberal and a score of 5 being very conservative. On average, the respondents rated themselves as a 3.3, which is just to the “right” on the moderate middle ground. In the same survey, these respondents evaluated Obama as a 2.3 and Romney as a 3.5, which suggests that most Americans view Romney as being a far better ideological “fit” for themselves.
But this means nothing.
Four years ago, in December of 2007, Gallup surveyed Americans using the same scale and the same questions. At that time, Americans evaluated themselves as a 3.2, while giving scores of 2.5 to Obama and 3.4 to McCain. But as we all know, President Obama beat McCain in the election by 7% of the general vote and by 192 votes in the electoral college.
What this means is that Americans do not choose their President on the basis of a perceived “fit” between their own ideological views and their perceptions of the candidate’s views. And this, of course, begs the question: on what grounds do Americans decide to vote?
Further complicating the matter is the rise of the “Independents,” “Apathetics,” and the “Openly Disgusted.” In a recent article by USA Today, Richard Wolf revealed that more than 2.5 million voters have left the Democratic and Republican parties since the 2008 election. While this is somewhat startling to political analysts, more startling are Wolf’s findings in the eight “swing states” that register voters by political party. In these eight states, Democratic registration is down by 800,000 voters, while Republican registration is down by 350,000 voters.
So where are they going? According to that article, only 325,000 voters have taken the time to re-register themselves as political “Independents.” What this means is that almost one million people in these eight states alone have elected to withdraw from the political process altogether.
This leaves us with a host of pressing questions. If ideological “fit” does not correlate with voting patterns, on what grounds do Americans decide to vote? Moreover, if more and more people are willfully removing themselves from the process, what will happen to the nation’s ability to effectively govern the masses? How does the issue of “power” or lack thereof, fit into these trends? And have we ultimately, as a nation, become ungovernable?