General Question

TheNakedHippie's avatar

When it comes to politics and voting, is everyone's opinion REALLY equally valid?

Asked by TheNakedHippie (470points) October 3rd, 2008

Voting and opinions and whatnot.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

13 Answers

JackAdams's avatar


If you vote in a state with a large number of Electoral College “points” (like Ohio, with 20) then your vote has more meaning and more impact, than votes cast in a state with few EC votes (such as Alaska, with only 3).

This is why the EC should be eliminated.

TheNakedHippie's avatar

Mmm, I was actually referring to the campaigns that try to get everyone registered to vote. No matter how educated one’s vote really is, they’re encouraged to get to the polls on election day. So if someone agrees with canddate A’s policy because their parents agree with it, is his or her opinion just as valid as someone who understands government policy and votes based on what is fact?

wundayatta's avatar

Depends, again, what you’re talking about. On one level, everyone’s vote counts the same. So they are equal.

If you’re talking about in conversations, then it seems to me that more knowledgeable opinions count more, in the sense they are more persuasive.

If you are talking about election tactics, and how candidates identify supporters; they make a decision on election day about going after hard supporters (yes) and then at the end, after folks who are weak supporters (depending on how things are going, they make that call at the last second). If it looks like the election is breaking your way based on exit polls, then they pull out the weak supporters, but if not, then they attempt to suppress the other person’s supports, and ignore the weak supporters.

JoeyDesignsStuff's avatar

It depends on your definition of validity. Every voter will have a personal perspective and individual circumstances which influence their decision. People in different life situations will care more about certain issues than others, which validates their stance. A voter whose last four jobs have been outsourced will have a valid opinion on that issue, whereas a successful executive will care far more about taxes, law and all that jazz. In that respect, any opinion based on personal experience affected by the state of the Union can be considered valid.

That said, there are definitely a lot of us who don’t particularly live our lives any differently depending on who’s in office. We’re all affected, but some far more directly than others. So in that sense, some may have a more ‘valid’ opinion than others.

susanc's avatar

Seems like there are two ends to this string.
The vote you’re given as a citizen of the United States has the same value (“validity”) as everyone else’s vote.
But you can affect the validity of your vote. If you don’t vote, you resign as a member of the voting collective – you invalidate your vote as if you had torn up your ticket stub before going into the movie.
If you vote passionately and talk passionately,
your valid vote influences other people’s voting, and multiplies. Not sure if that makes it more valid, but it makes it more powerful.

dalepetrie's avatar

Here’s my opinion for what it’s worth. In regards the the electoral college argument, your # of electors is based on your state’s population, so even though it’s not a directly representative Democracy (something the founding fathers distrusted, hence the EC), it’s a close approximation. From what I’ve read on the topic, it is possible to win the electoral vote and lose the popular vote (or vice versa) by somewhere in the 2% or just slightly higher range. If the spread is 3%, it’s pretty much a mathematical impossibility, at least given historical precedent…I suppose theoretically you could put together a coalition of states where you’d win by 1 vote, which would add up to 270, and lose every single vote in every other state, then the popular vote margin would be 75/25, the winner would be the one with 25, but in terms of probability, if you’re ahead by over 2% nationally, there is almost no chance of controversy. I know that’s not the original intent of the question, but I thought I’d get that out of the way.

Now to more directly answer your question about every vote being “valid”, I see things from two sides. First, I look at an ideal version of governance. To my way of thinking, all informed opinions are valid. When I engage in debate with someone, it’s clear to me (as an avowed liberal), that someone who says for example he’s voting for McCain, and can cite precedent, make a coherent argument, provide facts, etc., who tell me why economic growth can only be achieved by supply side economic policies, that even though I disagree with the person, and I can cite precedent, make a coherent argument, provide fact, etc. supporting my thesis that meaningful economic growth can only come from a bottom up, demand side economic solution. I would consider that person’s opinion to be “wrong” but “valid”, and I’d expect that person to consider my opinion to be “wrong” but “valid”. However, if someone tells me they’re voting for McCain because Barack Hussein Osama is a radical Muslim, that person is a goddamn moron and doesn’t deserve to draw another breath in my opinion…but not being God, I can’t do anything about it. To my way of thinking that is not a “valid” opinion, because it is not an informed one. It is one that is arrived at through prejudice and misinformation, and a lack of ability to think critically. And your example, someone who votes for one party because that’s what their parents did would fall under the same category. As would the people who don’t really “care” about issues and only vote for whomever they “like” better, have a better “gut feeling” about, or would most like to “have a beer” with (or this year, “hunt a moose” with).

That’s how I define whether or not someone’s opinion is “valid” when it comes to debating. If someone has opinions I don’t agree with, but they understand the facts and just interpret them differently than I do, then I can have a conversation, a debate or even a friendly argument with them. I don’t see the need in cases like this to call names, be insulting, etc. When someone’s opinion however isn’t just “wrong”, but grossly uninformed, patently ignorant or what have you, I will sharpen my wit with that person and though I won’t be blunt and crude, I will have no sympathy for hurt feelings or offended pride. And as such, if I were to design a form of governance, I would not require you to hold any particular ideological views, but I would gather a group of intelligent people from all political points of view to a think tank discussion to determine what the major issues facing our nation are, and what every informed voter should at minimum know and understand. I personally would not deem myself worthy to make these judgement calls, but I think it could be done…I think a test could be designed to make sure that you had enough understanding of the facts that are important…you wouldn’t have to be a genius, just competent, and if you pass that test, you can vote.

But that would not be a Democracy, and we live in a Democracy, which in theory means that every vote is counted and every vote counts. And we have very few rules as to who can and cannot vote, you have to be a citizen…good rule in my opinion to let only the people actually living under the rule of the government to have input into how it is structured. Some places have rules against Felons voting…unfortunately I’m not so sure that’s a good rule, if for no other reason than it, like any restriction, can be abused. You have to be 18…OK…I think age restrictions are a bit arbitrary, but 18 is a pretty standardized thing in our culture, so I’m OK with that (in my ideal world I’d let anyone vote if they grasped the issues). But the theory of a Democracy is that we are dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, and by extension, each individual does (and should to be consistent and fair in regards to our own principals) have the right to vote. Now unfortunately, not having a litmus test leads to ill informed and uninformed voters, emotional voters, habit voters, stupid voters, etc. But when the campaigns are trying to get out the vote, in my view, that’s a good thing. Because I look at the statistics.

In 2004, more people voted for President as both a raw number and a percentage of the populace than in any Presidential race in American history. 120 million people voted, about 59 million for Kerry and 61 million for Bush. But there were 300 million people in the United States, 220 million were of voting age, and 210 million were eligible (the other 10 million being essentially felons and non-resident aliens…the two categories of Americans who can’t vote). So of 210 million people who COULD have voted, 90 million, a full 40%, did not. That says a LOT about our system. First off it says that 50% more people picked none of the above over the winner. What factors underlie this 40% of the electorate that doesn’t come out? I don’t know the percentages, but I think I can make an educated guess as to the categories.

1) Younger voters who have not yet woken up to the realities that voting is more worth their time than doing Jello shots of the belly of a naked co-ed (as well as anyone who just feels they have something better to do).

2) People who can’t get to the polls for mobility, economic, or time reasons.

3) People who have been turned off by the negativity of the campaign.

4) People who don’t think their vote matters/counts.

5) People who don’t think it matters who is President/it doesn’t affect them.

Now you have to look at America as a bell curve. Now statistics can be tricky when it gets into confidence intervals and standard deviations and the like, but forget all that and just look at your normal distribution as it relates to intelligence. Even think about it as your standard grading system in schools, an A is exceptional, B is above average, C is average, D is below average and F is failure. So if you looked at the bell curve, plus or minus one deviation from the middle is going to be your “average” or C. 68% fall into this category. Your B and D students are going to represent 14% each. Your A and F students are going to represent 2% each. So really, you’ve got about 16% of the population that is below average intelligence or downright dumb as Samsonite and probably shouldn’t be voting at all. And I’d guesstimate that when you look at who votes, about 16% of the people who do vote, really shouldn’t, whereas of the people who don’t vote, 84% probably should. But bottom line, as long as you’re in a Democracy, you’re stuck with that 16%. Getting people who don’t vote to the polls isn’t going to increase that 16% to say 20%, it’s going to bring more voters of all stripes to the table.

But what you as a candidate want to do is to look at those 5 categories of people who don’t vote, and particularly target those groups where you think you have an outsized amount of support. Because realistically, if this were a completely random thing, that 60% of America that does vote probably by and large approximates the result you’d get if 100% of America voted…it’s just the law of averages. So, I’ll look at this from the point of view of the Obama campaign as to where I’d target my efforts (simply because I support Obama personally and am more familiar with the mindset).

Category 1, young voters and people who just think they have better things to do. Because of the change Obama represents, and because younger voters have really had their formative years set in stone during the failed Bush Administration, they are overwhelmingly liberal in ideology, and thus reaching these people, exciting them, giving them hope for a brighter future, engaging them and telling them what’s really at stake is a great strategy to not only increase the # of voters, but to increase the # of Obama voters.

The second category is also good for Obama, because there are a number of voters who are disadvantaged and beaten down by the system. Even the older disabled veteran these days who has a hard time getting to the polling place might feel let down by the country he served. And the person working 3 jobs who would literally have to lose 2 hours pay, and pay for bus fare both ways to get to the polling booth that day (and that might mean a meal for their family) may not vote usually because their one vote is not as important as their real world concerns. Well someone like Obama promises hope to these very people, and the campaign has been agressively trying to get people to vote early by absentee ballot. If they can get mail in ballots into the hands of this type of voter, they will stretch their numbers.

Third, those turned off by negative campaigning…you see the ads. Every year it’s the same…“my oponent eats babies,” “oh yeah, well my oponent humps water buffalo…” How do you trust EITHER of these guys? They both seem dangerous, like they’ll destroy the planet. There’s only so much of that a sane person can take. Obama has actively railed against the politics of personal destruction and has tried to run a respectful campaign. His message (even if he hasn’t been 100% able to follow it himself) is powerful to that voter…great pickup opportunity for him here. Also in here are those who get turned off because the choice is ALWAYS between two rich, old white men. Well, not THIS year, pal!

Fourth, in a time when the differences are so stark between the two candidates, and in a time where we’ve seen elections decided by a couple hundred votes, EITHER side has a ickup opporunity with people who think their vote doesn’t count.

Fifth, those who don’t think it matters who’s President can be sold on the failures of Bush and on how much worse off they are now than they were 8 years ago. Again a tremendous pickup opportunity.

So, some are going to sign up and still not show. Some are going to sign up because they have been fooled by the propaganda. But if the sides connect to people who are ideologically similar to them and inform and educate them as to why it matters, we get more people into the process. And why it matters is that when you have the same people voting this year as you had 4 years ago, you can’t expect the result to be much different. But if you tap into this new pool, the campaign with the most effective arguments and the best voter contact skills and tools is going to win the election. And hey, if you can honestly say you have the better arguments and the better organized game, why SHOULDN’T you win?

Harp's avatar

It would be absolutely fantastic if everyone were a thoroughly informed voter. It would be terrible, however, to have only the well-informed voting.

While there are plenty of exceptions, the best informed citizens will also tend to be those with higher educational levels and higher incomes. They will tend to have a more nuanced understanding of world events, macro-economic principles, government structure, etc. But their interests are not necessarily those of the uneducated and lower-income population.

There is already a relationship between being informed and showing up at the polls, which inevitably skews representation in favor of those who are doing relatively well in our society. The interests of those who aren’t doing very well are under-represented simply because they aren’t participating in equal numbers.

Of course, it’s not a given that just because someone shows up to vote, they will know enough about the issues to even vote in a way that furthers their interests. But most will know how to vote in a way that expresses their most immediate concerns, whether or not they grasp “the Big Picture”.

We need Big Picture people voting, for sure. But democracy relies on the principle that everyone votes in their best interests. For this to work, everyone needs to have their say. The well-informed will always have their say, but that’s not enough. Huge voter turnout will always give us a more representative government. Depending on where your own interests lie, that may or may not be a good thing; but the democratic ideal (electoral college aside) would have us believe that this is the best way to govern.

tWrex's avatar

I agree with most of what everyone says, because while I hate the fact that some idiot who’s uninformed cancels out my vote they have as much of a right to vote as I do. And, it gives me incentive to actually go and vote. But my state always goes one way, so really it’s pointless, which also bums me out, ‘cause I’d like to feel like my vote counted for something. For any arguments about that though the above posts probably do a better job of making those points.

And @dalepetrie. Please stop. You hurt my eyes. Your posts are really well put and fully well informed, but good God man! I really am thinking about writing that script to make your posts into a readers digest version. I wonder if they could do that for you in the preview like they did for “Talk like a pirate day”.

dalepetrie's avatar

tWrex, if you write that script, think about sharing it, I know very well it’s not an uncommon complaint that I write too much. I just can’t keep it simple when I’m talking about complex issues, not my style…I accept that turns some people off, but others find it refreshing, and I find it’s always best to be myself.

tWrex's avatar

@dalepetrie I really am joking. I thoroughly enjoy reading everything you have to say, even if it is overwhelming. I have thought about trying to do it just to see if it’d be possible, though. Overall, though, I just like giving you a hard time because I know you can take it. ツ

dalepetrie's avatar

Oh, I know it was tongue in cheek! Some people however just won’t read it it it’s longer than a paragraph. I encountered that attitude too many times in corporate America (especially in Fortune 500s….higher ups always want ‘face time’ because that’s what they do for a living…they meet with people, unlike the rest of us who actually DO WORK and find it far more efficient to write things down in an email…that way you have a record of it, you get all the details down and don’t forget anything and you have something to refer to). So, I got so sick of that “if it’s too long, I don’t read it” that I said, you know what, when I’m having fun, I’m going to write what I want, and if you want to read it, great, and if not, great. But yeah, I knew you were just teasing!

arnbev959's avatar

Dale, the longer your posts the better. When I see a lengthy post by you I make a cup of tea, then settle down in front of my computer screen for a good read.

dalepetrie's avatar

pete…I appreciate the props!

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther