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Who are the middle 40%?

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jfmoore Posted: Mon, Mar 12 2012 3:52 PM

I've been wondering about something for a while, now, and so have decided to ask for input from liberty-minded people. Naturally, I thought of mises.org first.

Polls have been consistent for years, even decades, that 20% of people consider themselves as committedly liberal, 40% as conservative, and 40% in the middle, or "independent". It is the middle 40% that swing elections. If Dems get 3/4+ of this group, or 30+% of the 40%, then they win. On the other hand, if Reps get 1/4+ of this group, or 10+% of the 40%, then they win.

My question is this: Just who are the people in this middle 40% group, why are they fence-straddlers, and why are they not in either of the two committed groups?

Any input will be appreciated.

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I think you'll find a sparse few here that will agree with the "left", "right", "middle" description that is commonly used in media.

And that is also part of the answer to your question.

" ‘Bread and Circuses’ is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. “
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jfmoore replied on Mon, Mar 12 2012 4:17 PM

I would be among that number, as well, but the point is, I think, what they consider themselves and why. Thanks for the reply.

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Wheylous replied on Tue, Mar 13 2012 8:33 AM

I don't think the numbers are as lopsided as you present them. Perhaps this is a different categorization, but I've seen 33% Democrat, 28% Republican, and the rest Independent or not sure.

Who they are? I am guessing people who consider themselves rational and who have specific weightings on issue such as foreign policy and economy that make them vote certain ways. For example, independents might believe in a more conservative fiscal policy (in theory) but also a less prominent foreign policy. As such, they actually have to look at the candidates and estimate what type of change the candidates could  bring and then weight that against their own value scales. E.g. If I care about both fiscal and foreign policy, but a little more about foreign policy, I could vote for a president who is economically not ideal but doesn't want to start a war with Iran. If there is no foreign threat imminent, I could instead vote for the guy I prefer fiscally even if he is a bit of a war hawk (but it doesn't matter as much, because there are no foreign threats).

I am guessing that the independents want a decently-strong military without too many foreign ambitions, a semi-sound fiscal policy, and a liberal social policy.

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jfmoore replied on Tue, Mar 13 2012 10:18 AM

"I don't think the numbers are as lopsided as you present them. Perhaps this is a different categorization, but I've seen 33% Democrat, 28% Republican, and the rest Independent or not sure."

The actual numbers are not important.

"Who they are? I am guessing people who consider themselves rational and who have specific weightings on issue such as foreign policy and economy that make them vote certain ways. For example, independents might believe in a more conservative fiscal policy (in theory) but also a less prominent foreign policy. As such, they actually have to look at the candidates and estimate what type of change the candidates could  bring and then weight that against their own value scales. E.g. If I care about both fiscal and foreign policy, but a little more about foreign policy, I could vote for a president who is economically not ideal but doesn't want to start a war with Iran. If there is no foreign threat imminent, I could instead vote for the guy I prefer fiscally even if he is a bit of a war hawk (but it doesn't matter as much, because there are no foreign threats)."

"I am guessing that the independents want a decently-strong military without too many foreign ambitions, a semi-sound fiscal policy, and a liberal social policy."

That's interesting. If accurate, would seem to put a number into the Ron Paul camp. Thanks.

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The actual numbers are not important.

If the numbers are not relevant than your question boils down to "why do some people not self-identify to a black/white labeling of their political philosophy?"

In which case I would respond that for myself I find labels extremely dangerous and oft used disingenuously. If I were asked that same question with a gun to my head and forced to choose a label I would choose the most vague as well (i.e. 'independent'). I'm not willing to sell out the minority portion of my opinion for the majority; all I'm left with is "independent".

" ‘Bread and Circuses’ is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure. “
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jfmoore replied on Tue, Mar 13 2012 5:51 PM

Okay, I see a problem that I should have anticipated for two reasons: 1. It is obvious, and 2. I am a good example myself.

No, I do not mean Ron Paul supporters who are, in many cases, disaffected Republicans who no longer wish to be associated with that group and, therefore, consider themselves as independent. They, or we, would definitely be within that segment who consider themselves committedly conservative (not neo-conservative), and that's not the group I am interested in. I am interested, rather, in that group between Ron Paul conservatives and those who consider themselves committedly liberal, who I assume are the Marxists, socialists, trade-unionists, progressives, Hollywood liberals, etc. I believe that this middle group, whatever their number, considers themselves as independent, as well, yet would, I would think, have little in common with Ron Paul independents.

I have some assumptions regarding this group that I hesitated to offer as I didn't want my opinions to color the discussion, but I will now state them for clarity. I believe that some of the people in this group possess one or more of these characteristics:

Dislike extremes at either end, either liberal or conservative.
Dislike conflict, animosity, incivility, etc.
Trust neither major party.
Perhaps consider themselves as moderate.

So, you see that I really do not know much about this group, but this will at least better define the group in which I am interested. 

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