What Issue Drives Your Voting?

For all of the splash created by the two recent high-profile Supreme Court decisions (upholding of the Affordable Care Act & striking down much of the Arizona immigration law), this election is still about the economy.

I ran across an interesting blog post by Daniel Drezner, a political science professor and think-tanker who specializes in foreign policy. Based on his experiences with international business leaders, Drezner says that the rest of the world expects President Obama to win the election easily. Drezner thinks their expectations are built on four observations (from FP, it’s worth reading)

1)  The U.S. economy is outperforming almost every other developed economy in the world;

2)  They assume that in times of uncertainty, Americans will prefer the devil they know rather than the devil they don’t;

3)  President Obama’s foreign policies seem pretty competent;

4)  Mitt Romney’s policy proposals either seemed really super-vague (this will be an American Century) or, when specific (designating China as a currency manipulator) made him seem like an out-of-date clown.

It’s interesting to me how tone-deaf Americans are to the rest of the planet. How had I never had the thought that the U.S. economy was outperforming the rest of the world? Republicans seem confident that they will win on the economy. But if what Drezner says is true, D’s can win on that issue if they can expand the discussion to include the rest of the world. Continued slow growth in the U.S. economy over the summer plays into the administration’s narrative that current economic growth is based on real economic change. D’s are pounding the “real change takes time” narrative, and it seems to be working. As Europe continues to struggle, I think we will see the President Obama’s campaign putting the U.S. economy into an international context. They don’t call it a global financial crisis for nothing, and Americans can never resist the chance to feel superior to the rest of the world. It might work for them.

One thing is for sure. Gay Marriage, abortion, ACA, immigration, education – they don’t really matter. Even the deficit won’t matter because, for the most part it’s only the same 25-30% of hardened republicans who care about it. This election, as is always the case, is about the economy. As long as the economy continues to improve – even slowly – President Obama will win. If the U.S. economy experiences a set-back this summer – especially in comparison to the rest of the world – Romney has a real shot. (although Citizen’s United could be a game changer – we don’t know what impact it will have).

Here’s an interesting look at polling data from a ton of different sources ranking the issues which drive our voting:

I care most deeply about economic/social justice and the growing gap between the rich and poor. Then immigration, healthcare, the war in Afghanistan, the deficit, jobs, and energy.

What issues drive your voting?


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  • Libby

    I spent a semester abroad in college while George W was in office…I was so sick of all the negative feedback that at one point tried to pull of being Canadian. I was abroad again for a 4 month stretch last year, and it was so refreshing to meet people who were so impressed with our president. I don’t vote solely on this topic, but I do think having smarts & charisma on the international level is incredibly important for an American president.

  • I’m driven to vote for the candidate who would acknowledge and do the most to remove the privileges for the wealthy due to regulations and monetary policy and practice. Neither Obama nor Romney seem interested in going down that road, so I’ll be abstaining this election (if nothing major changes).

  • Chris

    I hate this question purely because it reveals within me such a profound tension and laziness that I run from even thinking too deeply about it. I have typically been a one issue voter. The Pro-Life candidate got my vote. Though I’m profoundly against legalized abortion, this voting pattern was more based on laziness than conviction. Checking a candidates voting record on one issue is much easier than entering in and engaging all of the complexities of how to truly show compassion as a nation while still paying our bills. Voting to protect the unborn is easier than voting to protect the born. The tension comes in when I try to extend my voting concerns because the truth is, I really do care deeply about the unborn and the candidates that stand most firm on that issue so often show the least amount of compassion for all of the other people that Jesus has called me to be concerned for. I may be with Doug. I may need to abstain.

  • scott stone

    I have to say I find a lot to disagree with regarding the premise of the Professor. First of all, “it could be worse” and “well at least we aren’t as bad off as the other guys” is not a campaign theme that will excite the voters. Say what you will about the American electorate, we want to be inspired and there is no inspiration in his position. So much for hope and change I guess.
    While the Professor states that the rest of the world expects President Obama to be reelected, I wish he would have gone deeper into the rationale for this. I’m fortunate that I get to spend time in Europe every year. Most of my time is spent in Germany, however I do spend some time in France and Italy. My wife an I have developed some fantastic relationships with a variety of people. The one thing I can tell you unequivocally is that most of our friends opinions about President Obama are based on symbolism and not substance. They like him but have no substantive reason for it. It’s like your average American taking a position on Sarkozy or Rajoy or Merkel.
    I also disagree that Europeans enjoy our foreign policy. When pressed, stepped up drone attacks, Guantanamo Bay, the sense of continued American imperialism, is still a hot topic for many of our friend. They see many similarities between Obama and Bush regarding foreign policy.
    I do have a couple of questions for you Tim. Your statement, “Even the deficit won’t matter because, for the most part it’s only the same 25-30% of hardened republicans who care about it” intrigues me on a number of levels. First off, are you using “hardened republicans” as a pejorative? I would think that, from the perspective of a Christ follower, we all would be concerned about being good stewards of what we have. If economic and social justice are of greatest concern, which is my position, it is a goal that can not be reached with the fiscal mess we find our selves in now.

    • Tim Suttle

      Nope, not using hardened republicans in a pejorative way. I just meant committed. In looking at the actual stats from that post somewhere around 25-30%, depending upon the poll, vote on that issue & they are typically Republicans who are never going to vote for a D.

      As much as the deficit bothers me, it’s not the primary issue I vote on. I wonder why the disparity between rich and poor doesn’t get more play in the deficit conversation. In terms of the stability of the country, isn’t the 99%/1% a bigger threat?

  • scott stone

    I’m not sure how the disparity in income affects the deficit. Now I know some will say that if taxes on the rich are increased, (which I’m not opposed to, we just need to have an intellectually honest conversation about it) we can bring down the deficit. Increased taxes on the rich will also close the income gap between rich and poor.
    There are two problems with this logic. First, (and isn’t today a perfect day for this conversation, with the President wanting to increase taxes on high income earners) we are currently running a $1.49T deficit. By increasing taxes to the Clinton era rates, which is proposed, revenues generated will be$800B over ten years. That’s roughly $80B a year. This brings current deficit projections from $1.49T to $1.41T. Let’s all be honest and admit that that is basically an accounting error. It does next to nothing to reduce our deficit. It is an election ploy, which I know that both sides participate in. The point is that Obama was suppose to be different. Post racial, post partisan, like no other politician we have ever seen. Let me state once again, I’m in favor of raising taxes, I just want an honest dialogue.
    My second point has to do with closing income disparity between rich and poor, which I am also in favor of. (I may sound like a “hardened republican” but I’m not. More of a conservative communitarian. There’s a label for you! Hate the ACA because it puts universal single payer, which I’m for, back decades but that’s a whole new conversation)
    The argument that tax increases on the rich shrink the income disparity is a noble idea but there is one problem with it. If I’m only making $10,000 a year and the rich guy has his taxes raised so the gap between us is smaller, I’m still only making $10,000 a year. We need to find a way to raise income levels of the average American. My life isn’t any better off if the guy down the street has to pay more in taxes.
    One last point, and probably my harshest. The 99% vs the 1% is a ruse. If you are in the top 10% your household income is above $142,000. So households making $143k are part of the 99%. It’s hard for me to see how the 1% are holding them back, which is the argument of the movement. The top 1% are holding everyone else down.
    Also, who are the 1%. As it turns out 16% are in the medical profession, 2% are scientists and teachers, 1.6% are athletes and artists, 5% are in engineering and technical fields. Only 13.9% are in the financial services industry. So who do we want to attack in the 1%, teachers, scientists, actors and musicians? Things aren’t always so black and white.
    If we are to create a society with greater access, a society that is more just and fair, we need to be better stewards of what God has provided us. I’m not convinced that Washington has been good stewards. I’m not inclined to want to give them more until they can handle the responsibility they’ve already been given.