So much money, so few swing voters

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Editor’s note: This is a preview of a story that appears in the November issue of Gateway Journalism Review.

The most appropriate aphorism for the 2012 general election may be, “Never has so much money and effort been spent on so few people with such uncertain effect.” This brief summary of the fall campaign results from the confluence of two quite different electoral developments. The first is the recent – and growing – ideological and partisan polarization of the American electorate. The second is the vast and growing amounts of money being poured into the effort to elect the next president of the United States. The result is an enormous amount of money being spent by both parties – and all the outside groups supporting them – to convince a relative handful of undecided voters. By Election Day, both camps are projected to raise $1 billion.

The American electorate has never been as clearly and deeply polarized as it is now. The Democrats are mostly satisfied with the job President Barack Obama is doing and plan to vote for him. Republicans are deeply dissatisfied and plan to vote for Mitt Romney. This leaves a fairly small slice of the true independents (about 10 percent to 12 percent) caught in the middle and less likely to make up their minds until very late in the campaigns. These late deciders have been the focus of avid attention by both parties.

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