After spending three hours standing outside my local polling place and only fifteen people showing up, this is going to be one of those "I don't like the voters" posts. And, after seeing these numbers, you might not like the voters, either. Consider the following numbers on desired Iraq policy from New Hampshire primary voters (page 9, emphasis in original):
Respondents were asked which of the following comes closest to their view toward the war in Iraq: you support continued military involvement at current troop levels, you support continued involvement at current troop levels, you support efforts to end the war and gradually withdraw troops or you support efforts to end the war and rapidly withdraw troops. Among Democratic Primary voters, 69 percent support gradual withdrawal, 26 percent support rapid withdrawal and three percent support continued involvement at current troop levels. Among Republican Primary voters, 48 percent support gradual withdrawal, 29 percent support continued involvement at current troop levels, 15 percent support continued involvement at increased troop levels and two percent support rapid withdrawal.
Overall, Democrats support withdrawal by a 95%--4% margin, while Republicans support it by a 50%-44% margin. Democrats have a consensus in favor of withdrawal, while even Republicans have a slight majority in favor of it. Now, let's see which candidates these same voters would be best suited to carry out this policy (page 7, emphasis in original):
When asked which candidate-among all candidates running for President-would do the best job handling the situation in Iraq, Democratic Primary voters identify Clinton (42%), Obama (24%), Richardson (15%), Edwards (14%) and McCain (12%). In contrast, Republican Primary voters identify Giuliani (36%), McCain (33%), Romney (29%), Huckabee (9%) and Thompson (7%)
Surge architect and ultra-hawk John McCain is apparently the voter's favorite candidate to carry out their desired policy of withdrawal from Iraq. Even 12% of Democrats consider him the candidate who would do the best job of handling the situation in Iraq, even though only 1% of Democrats favor McCain's policy of increased troop levels in Iraq. This massive disconnect between candidates and policy makes me want to scream.
How can voters favor a policy of withdrawing from Iraq, and yet think that a candidate who wants to send more troops to Iraq would be the best suited to handle the situation in Iraq? I suppose it is possible that voters don't know candidate positions on Iraq, but how can voters, especially likely voters in New Hampshire, not know McCain's position on Iraq yet? That seems virtually impossible. Instead of ignorance, I think it is more likely that many voters don't trust themselves on Iraq, and are willing to defer their judgment on the subject to someone else. I find that obsequious attitude to elite authority figures repugnant.
This is very disheartening. If voter education in one of our smallest and most heavily targeted states on the biggest issue of our time is this difficult, or even rendered impossible because of the willingness of so many people to set aside their own judgment, then what is to be done? Perhaps I am over-reacting, but even if I am it doesn't make me all that excited to go stand outside in fairly cold weather for another several hours. Quite frankly, any notion that voters make decisions based on rational connections between candidates and the policies they espouse needs to be abandoned.