The Vanishing Voter Project conducted over 80,000 interviews during the year 2000 United States Presidential campaign. The goal was to study the reasons behind the the fact that the United States has one of the lowest voter turnout rates among industial nations.
The resultant book, Thomas E. Patterson’s The Vanishing Voter, brings to light the many reasons we vote in numbers so small: the changing nature of political parties, the role of media, campaign length, structure and financing.
It’s not like any of these topics are new ones. Who hasn’t complaigned about, say, negative political ads?…or thought that the campaign itself was just too darned long? What’s enlightening here is to see how all of these issues act together to suppress interest in the political process.
My personal campaign peeve? Negative and simplistic advertising. After months of wall-to-wall half-truths, oversimplifications and outright lies, it’s tought to think well of any candidate. Patterson alludes to this when he reveals that
75% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘political candidates are more concerned with fighting each other than with solving the nation’s problems’
Patterson does offer some suggestions for reversing the current situation. These include: restructuring campaigns to reduce the negative effects of front-loading, moving the end of the nominating races closer to the party conventions and increasing and restructuring prime-time television coverage. None of these proposals are offered as ultimate solutions to the problem at hand. Patterson is merely suggesting that something be done.
I’d have to agree. It would be nice to enter that voting booth and not be presented with Evil #1 and Evil #2.
(Originally posted on Mark Is Cranky: December 17, 2002)