Before You Think, Vote!

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Two public polls (well, one private but leaked to the Washington Post) on hot U.S. Senate races reveal an interesting aspect of how we elect our fearless leaders. First, Democrats conducted a poll in the Maryland Senate race that shows 44% of black voters could abandon the party if they "hear the messaging" of black Republican Michael Steele. Second, a poll by Rasmussen Reports shows signs of life from dead-man-walking (and man-on-dog) Sen. Rick Santorum—but only if voters in Pennsylvania learn that the National Organization for Women has refused to endorse Santorum's anti-abortion opponent, Democrat Bob Casey.

The connecting tissue here: Ignorance. In both cases, political consultants realize their worst-case scenario is that voters get to hear the candidates explain themselves and interest groups explain their positions. The consultants, then, are looking for ways to blot out or muddle their opponents' messages, then sit back and win. This isn't breaking news, but it's nice to have it spelled out by the pollsters themselves.

In February, Kerry Howley spoke to Going Dirty author David Mark about how politics might be more responsive if everything—ideas, scandals, whatever—just got out into the open.

NEXT: Not Enough Fish To Eat, Not Enough Women To Fish...

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  1. What happens if Lewis Libby answers, “Yes, but a higher authority told me to”? http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12187153/

  2. Damn it, that’s supposed to be in the airport lie detector comments below!

  3. The Rasmussen poll has been contradicted by a this quinnipiac poll. Some of its findings:

    Only 23 percent of Pennsylvania voters know that Casey is pro-life, while 8 percent think he is pro-choice and 69 percent don’t know Casey’s position on abortion.

    And only 15 percent of voters say they would vote against a candidate based only on his position on abortion. Of that group, two-thirds are staunchly anti-abortion, while one third, or 5 percent of the total electorate, say they are staunchly pro-choice.

    Among Democrats who identify as pro-choice and who initially expressed support for Casey, only 9 percent say they are “very likely” to shift their support to a pro-choice Democrat in a primary.

    “The most surprising thing about this poll is that two-thirds of the voters say they don’t know how Bob Casey Jr. stands on the issue of abortion. But given that, only five percent of the voters say they would definitely vote against a candidate just because he opposed abortion,” Richards said.

    “With Casey holding double digit leads, this is an indication that his stand against abortion is not having a major impact in either the Democratic primary or the general election.”

    It seems quite unreasonable, on its face, that voters would choose Santorum over Casey based on the issue of choice. Neither one of them is pro-choice, but Santorum is more extreme in his opposition to abortion, and also quite cozy with the religious right. So I really doubt the accuracy of the finding that pro-choice voters are gonna flock to Santorum upon finding out that Casey is also anti-choice. Unless of course that they are uninformed of the incumbant’s positions and think that Santorum is pro-choice (since the question doesn’t mention Santorum’s stand on choice, this may well be a valid assumption). I doubt such confusion would last very long though.

    I just don’t think Rasmussen’s poll is correct in this instance.

  4. Damnit…

    here is the link to the quinnipiac poll results

  5. Yeah, I thought Casey’s advantage was that he was pro-life. Weird.

  6. I hope the Democrats can somehow organize a debate between President Bush and the guy who wrote “hear the messaging.” Truly a contest to strike fear into the heart of the English language.

  7. Yeah I was wondering myself what ‘hear the messaging’ means.

  8. One word: Plastics.

    No, wait. I meant to say, anarchy.

    Anarchy is my shepherdess. I shall not want.
    She leadeth me to lie down in green pastures…

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