After the first Presidential Debate in Denver, every news channel had begun conducting post-debate polls, CNN was even running a live-streaming poll throughout the debate to track spikes and dips in the viewers’ attitudes toward each candidate.
It was clear after the debate that Mitt Romney had done better than most people had thought he would and this was reflected in the polls conducted in battleground states across the country. In most of the critical swing states that President Obama had been holding comfortable leads, Romney is now within the margin of error from taking the lead.
However, I do not believe that the group of voters that are still undecided will base their vote on the results of public opinion polls. These undecided voters are more concerned about the policies and records of the two candidates rather than the array of constantly changing polling outcomes.
When people go to vote, especially undecided voters, they’re not going to be considering the most recent Gallup poll on each candidate’s likeability or how the public thinks each candidate can handle the economy.
Instead, the policies and records of each of the candidates will be significantly more important and influential than the latest public opinion poll. It is true that when it comes to debates, polls usually illustrate a winner and a loser. However, it is the substance (the policies and records) and the candidate’s performance in the debate that determines the results of a public opinion poll.
So basically, if Barack Obama were to struggle with Romney in the polls until November, it wouldn’t be due to a reaction to the post-debate polls, it would be due to his flat, unusually “too polite,” ineffective performance.
At the next debate President Obama can — and most likely will — recover from his weak debate performance by holding Romney accountable for his false statements and more effectively communicating to undecided voters the accomplishments of the Obama administration. Voters don’t react to the polls; the polls are a reflection of public opinion, which is usually temporary and constantly changing.
Polls just don’t have a lasting impact because there are other factors that directly impact people’s perception of who is best to lead the nation. Since this election is going to be about jobs and the economy, Obama can also gain support he lost with undecided voters with a solid jobs report and another decrease in the unemployment rate.
Both the unemployment rate and jobs report provide a familiar context in which voters can interpret President Obama’s record and the effects of his policies. As long as undecided voters qualify a candidate on the basis of their record and how effective their policies are and/or were, President Obama should be in good shape.
Not only do I disagree with the notion that the recent bump Romney has received will carry over to election day to benefit him but I think it has raised an alarm amongst Democrats to end a sense of complacency that was beginning to be expressed. It has forced them to fire up, energize and motivate their base to support the President and the Democratic candidates running for the House and Senate by promoting voter turnout.
The voters still deliberating on which candidate to choose won’t base their vote on a public opinion poll, they will base their decision on the records and policies of the candidates with two fundamentally different directions for America. The debates tonight will help reveal to undecided voters which candidate has the best plan for the future of this country.
A.J. Foltz is a freshman political science major. His column appears every other Tuesday in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.