To be honest, I feel like we as Americans fail to really understand undecided voters. In our heavily politicized environment, where one presidential election process begins only halfway through another, we all too often see failure to pick a side as a sign of ignorance. Choosing not to participate in election polls like the recent “Caucus the Campus” can make a person seem like they don’t care about politics and an unenlightened fool. We watch CNN, Fox News or the news station of our choice, and we hear about some tiny percentage of voters candidates are so concerned about. To many, these select few receive so much attention and yet, to columnists like Ezra Klein, all they really do is “wake up every morning and [say]… ‘I dunno.’”
But for me at least, it’s not that I don’t care. I want to care with all my heart, to have a particular candidate to plaster all over my laptop and to make small talk about. I want to go into that voting machine in November knowing exactly who I want to lead this country. This is what I think about every day. It’s not that I don’t know what party I lean towards or what issues I care about, and I can honestly say that I’ve narrowed it down to two candidates. The thing that keeps me undecided is fear. It’s being pulled towards one candidate before being bombarded with Facebook endorsements from my friends for the other side.
Call me weak, but I’m a people-pleaser at heart. Underneath all the issues that could change our country, it’s still a decision between friends and family. I’ve confessed this to a few people who say they’ll support me no matter what decision I make and that I don’t have the obligation to tell them how I swing, but it still eats me up inside sometimes.
Increased research into the minds of undecided voters is showing far fewer cases of ignorance and far deeper roots than previously suspected. Reasoning for this indecision can vary greatly, with some like me who are just uncomfortable with the cutthroat environment that can come with political battles. Others choose not to decide because they simply disagree with all candidates. For others, the major candidate for their party holds views they find problematic. For instance, many undecided voters are women who disapprove of the way discourse surrounding issues such as abortion is handled on both sides.
I feel like there’s a more lingering issue that needs to be addressed here than just personal cases like these: many undecided voters simply don’t have the means to make an educated decision. “New York Times” studies show that they are more likely to have less than a high school education and to have family salaries of less than $30,000 a year. While many issues in Washington, such as health care and welfare, directly contribute to their daily lives, the fact remains that debating the issue will not keep food on the table.
Putting on our critical thinking caps, therefore, is dismissing undecided voters really just a means of propagating the status quo and failing to consider the societal problems that keep their voices from being heard? Should we stop trying to convert them and start thinking about what made them that way? won’t pretend like I have all the answers, but if there’s one thing I am decided on, it’s that however we look at it, we shouldn’t shame people before getting their stories.