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The Myth of Swing Voters in Midterm Elections

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1.Will Swing Voters Make the Difference in the 2014 Midterm Elections?
Photo credit: Rob Boudon / Flickr

The 2014 midterm elections are still several months away, but analysts and concern citizens wonder if Democrats can wrest back control of the House of Representatives. According to Alan Abramowitz, a Senior Columnist at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, Democrats will face an uphill battle, if they try to upset the Republican majority. As he points out, Republicans still hold a pretty substantial lead with 234 seats compared to the Democrats’ 201. He concludes that it is possible that the Democrats could gain some seats, but they are unlikely to pick up the 17 seats they would need to outnumber the Republicans.

Will Swing Voters Make the Difference in the 2014 Midterm Elections?

In late April of 2014, the New York Times published an editorial by Lynn Vavreck, and this piece was titled The Myth of Swing Voters in Midterm Elections. In the article, Ms. Vavreck contends that are not really a lot of true swing voters. She says that people’s opinions may waver from one candidate to another during the course of an election, but most voters tend to come back to their home policy before election day. She says that political professionals have already noticed this trend, and that is why they do not focus on drawing swing voters to their side. Instead, they simply focus more on getting past voters out to the ballot boxes on election day.

Swing Voters and the 2010 Midterm Elections

The same New York Times article illustrated this point with statistics about the 2010 midterm elections. For Obama voters, only 6 percent switched their party affiliate, 65 percent voted for the same political party, and 28 percent did not go out and vote. With McCain voters, the same 6 percent switched parties during the midterm elections. An even more impressive 76 percent stuck with the Republican party during the 2010 midterms, and only 17 percent stayed at home. If you can use the most recent midterm elections as a guide, it seems reasonable to assume the Republicans will stay with the party.

Can Democrats Move Right to Attract Voters?

Dave Johnson published commentary on this topic on the Campaign for America’s Future website. This article was called Democrats Who Move Right Lose Elections – There Is No Center. He points out again that Democrats did not lose votes in the 2010 midterm elections because of swing voters who switched sides because they thought the Democrats leaned too far to the left. They lost many seats because Democrats did not bother to get out and vote. He says that changing positions to appeal more to centrists is unlikely to appeal to more Republicans.

What About Independent Voters?

Mr. Johnson also contends that independent voters are not centrists as one might assume. In fact, he cites a Pew Research Center study which reveals that more people who say they are independent tend to lean towards the right than the left.

The Myth of Swing Voters Turning the Midterm Elections

If the Democrats believe that swing voters will line up to vote and save the midterm elections for them, they appear to be on the wrong side of history. It is more likely that the Democrats who helped their party win in 2012 will just stay at their homes.

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