GREENSBORO -- Three debates, hundreds of campaign events later and there are still undecided voters unsure of who they are voting for.
Political analyst, Omar Ali explains what is going on in undecided voters' mind.
How are undecided voters still undecided three weeks before the election?
Omar Ali: Undecided voters are wrestling with what's best for themselves, their family, their communities, and the nation. They are thoughtful voters, trying to weigh many factors, and clearly non-partisan. Many are independents who are concerned about the deterioration of our political culture and not just specific policy positions. With over 90% public disapproval of the job that Congress is doing (or not!) and growing polarization in our country, many of the undecided, independent-minded voters are also struggling about how we, as a nation, can go forward. These are serious concerns. The progressive, process-oriented wing of the growing independent movement has been calling for reforms that can decrease the incentives to be partisan by elected officials, both in policy discussions and actual policy making, and increase the participation of all voters (not just Democrats and Republicans, but the 4 out o 10 Americans who are unaffiliated). Such 'structural political reforms,' as they are called, such as redistricting that is non-partisan, open primaries, and the inclusion of independents in the Federal Elections Commission, will begin to address the partisan-nature of our political system and the need for what the author, Jackie Salit, calls "culture-change" in politics. So the undecided are looking for both bread and butter policy answers by the candidates (on the economy, the state of our educational system, foreign policy) but also how they are speaking to each other, the American people, and how they may help or hurt the nation move towards post-partisan governance.
What is it going to take to get undecided voters to decide?
Ali: Many undecided voters would be swayed by either President Obama, or Governor Romney to vote for them by speaking on behalf of all Americans, and not just voters who agree with them programmatically. It was that broad-based appeal by then Senator Obama in 2008 that allowed him to win over significant numbers of Republicans and independents leading to his victory four years ago. Many Republicans crossed party lines in that election; meanwhile independents voted for Obama with an 8 point margin over John McCain (the Republican presidential candidate that year);
Many other undecided voters will also be swayed by the candidate who speaks directly about concrete political reforms they would issue or endorse to make our electoral system less partisan-driven (those "structural political reforms"); Tone and substance that acknowledge the rampant discontent among Americans about our political system and a way beyond the partisan morass that we're in would bring many people who are still on the fence.
With Tuesday night's debate, each party declared their guy the winner. Declaring the winner seems partisan-based. How do people put the party aside to watch the debate and decide a winner?
Ali: The winner-take-all system of American politics reinforces partisanship. It's very difficult for us, as voters, to see beyond partisanship when we are bombarded by such messages by way of political attack ads and the structure of the debates themselves. The Commission on Presidential Debates, which is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans, refuses to allow other candidates (third-party and independents) in the debates, which reinforces our bipartisan framework--and yet, there is no mention of political parties in the U.S. Constitution. How is that we only have two choices presented to us as voters? What has effectively happened is that both major parties have taken over our government and the way in which we see politics. It's very limiting and creates divisions among the American electorate when in fact people actually have much more in common. It does not allow for nuance in political discussions and acknowledging the merits of those who are not in one's party--which is, again, why so many people are declaring their political independence.