Friday, March 2, 2007

The Public's "Lack of Engagement"

Somehow, I missed this poll when it was released a week or so ago. So many polls, so little time—only 20 months or so until the presidential election. Whatever shall we do? Anyway, this particular poll, from the Pew Research Center, indicates a decided lack of interest in the burgeoning rosters of candidates from both major parties. Here's the lead summary:
The 2008 presidential campaign has kicked off earlier than usual with more candidates than usual, but many people appear not to have noticed. Americans are no more likely to say they have given the presidential campaign much thought than they did in December, and just small minorities can name a candidate they might support.

The public's lack of engagement in the campaign is reflected in how people are reacting to the large slates of potential candidates in both parties. Of the announced and highly probable candidates, only a few in each party are widely familiar. The results of in-depth questions suggest that the images of even the well-known candidates are fairly thin.

I suspect most U.S. voters realize that their opinion hardly counts at this point, or really, at any point up until Election Day. (Some, still smarting from the 2000 election debacle, would say their opinion hardly counts on Election Day. But that's another matter entirely.) Bear with me here, because I'm doing my best to keep from resorting to negativity in my discussion of all things political. It's mighty hard, though, so at the risk of sounding negative and even a bit predictable, I'll say this: no matter what we think, the leadership of both parties will do what they want, and they already know what that is. Help me put a positive spin on that, okay?

You can read about the results of the poll here. Items of interest to independents include these findings:

  • 64% of Democratic-leaning independents "who have heard of"* Barack Obama would vote for him, compared to 54% who have heard of Hillary Clinton and would vote for her. Al Gore and John Edwards were also in the running, but I didn't see a percentage for preference among independents.

  • 62% of Republican-leaning independents who have heard of Rudy Giuliani would vote for him, compared to 56% who have heard of John McCain and would vote for him. Mitt Romney came in a distant third at 35%.

  • 36% of independents (no mention of their partisan leanings in this section) would be less likely to support a philandering presidential candidate, compared to 25% of Democrats and 62% of Republicans.

  • 50% of independents (see parenthetical note above) are less likely to vote for candidate who never held elective office, compared to 59% of Democrats and 64% of Republicans.

  • 31% of independents (ditto) are more likely to vote for a Christian candidate, compared to 32% of Democrats and 61% of Republicans.

Actually, the entire poll is worth checking out, even this early in the game. It would have been more interesting, at least to me, if the poll had been more specific in each mention of "independents." Did the poll only define independents as Democratic-leaning or Republican-leaning? If not, how did independent-leaning independents like me respond? Ah, the questions, the many questions.

* To the "have-not-heard-ofs": we need to talk. Call me.

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