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Fed Up With Politics: A Look At The Undecided Voter

Laura Cueva |
October 28, 2010 | 7:27 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

Undecided voters may have the upper hand this election season.
Undecided voters may have the upper hand this election season.
Edward Nava is 20 years old. He’s an average Californian, a part-time student with a steady job and bills to pay. And, like so many Californians, he’s fed up with politics.

“My first time voting, I thought that I could truly make a change,” said Nava, who cast his first ballot for President Obama in 2008. “But now I feel like, what’s the point? All politicians are the same, [they’re all] slanderous pachyderms.”

It may sound harsh, but it’s a sentiment shared by many voters. A recent poll showed that one-third of likely voters either have not decided who they will vote for in the midterm elections or could change their minds. Given the recent political scandals, controversies and negative ad campaigns meant to befuddle voters' judgment, chances are most undecided voters would agree with Nava: none of the choices are all that great.

“With new conflicting data being slung back and forth, I just can’t see why I should pick either one,” Nava said about California gubernatorial candidates Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman.

Normally a left-leaning liberal, Nava is now questioning the candidates and becoming weary of their numerous campaign promises.

“You support one thing, hate another, are iffy about another, and have to take their word that they mean what they say and won’t flip-flop on it after the die has been cast,” Nava said.

He represents what pundits have termed the “enthusiasm gap” — a group of dispassionate Democrats who are losing their motivation to vote as the Republican party gains momentum. Though prominent political figures (including President Obama and Kal Penn at recent USC events) have doubted the existence of the enthusiasm gap given large student turnout at their events, there is no doubt that the gap exists, and the fact that these political celebrities are campaigning and rallying in a usually-blue state could be evidence of their concern.

“I did vote in ‘08 and I voted for Obama,” Nava said. “Today, I feel jaded from the lack or minimal change made in the past years. Right now I have less faith in politicians than I have ever had.”

This feeling is reflected not only in California, but across the nation. President Obama has seen his approval ratings drop to a new low of 37 percent, and one-quarter of those who voted for him are defecting to the GOP or considering voting against the Democratic Party on Nov. 2, potentially spelling trouble for the Democrats.

But with just five days left before Election Day, how likely are undecided voters to make up their minds in time?

“They don't have strong beliefs,” Emory University psychology professor Drew Westen told a Pittsburgh newspaper. “If nothing else, they are pragmatists and want to see solutions, and don't care if they come from the right or the left.”

To win votes, then, candidates need to focus on specific solutions rather than continuing their partisan mudslinging campaigns. How they will do that in five days, however, remains to be seen.

“I’m going to vote,” Nava said. “I’m voting for Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor. That’s the only thing that I know I’m going to vote for.”


To reach reporter Laura Cueva, click here. Or follow her on Twitter @leccueva.

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