Bloomberg News

Voters Put Off by Mudslinging Want Plans for U.S. Jobs

July 31, 2012

Tarsha Darden, a 34-year-old family doctor who lives in Virginia Beach, volunteered for President Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. Now she doesn’t even know whether she’ll vote for him.

“Normally I’m not a political person but I followed the last election and this time I’m not really following it because I just get tired of all the mudslinging,” Darden said as she shopped in Prince William County in the swing state of Virginia. “It’s hard to figure out what issues are true and what’s not.”

She plans to make up her mind at the last minute, she said, after trolling the Internet to learn more about Obama’s platform and the positions of his Republican rival, Mitt Romney.

An informal Bloomberg survey this month of voters in Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida -- each among the most crucial swing states -- showed that even those voters who’ve made their choices for November’s election aren’t necessarily excited about their picks. They also say they want Obama and Romney to be more specific about what they intend to do to fix the economy. And the tenor of the presidential race has left them weary and disenchanted, in part because of the reliance on negative ads.

“It’s getting so boring, I’m so tired of it,” said Richard Pollard, 71, a retired overseas development specialist who lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Pollard says he’ll vote for Obama even though he feels “a bit let down” by his handling of the economy as the jobless rate remains above 8 percent.

Gauging Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm among Americans about voting this year is running behind the levels for 2004 and 2008, according to a Gallup poll conducted July 19-22. In the survey, 44 percent said they were enthusiastic about casting a ballot. That compares with 48 percent who expressed such an attitude in July 2008 and 59 percent in July 2004.

“The decline in voter enthusiasm this year is consistent with Gallup’s finding that self-reported likelihood to vote is lower compared with the fall of 2004 and 2008,” the pollsters said in their report on the figures.

A common thread among voters interviewed was a yearning for more detail from both Obama and Romney.

“I’m not sure of some of the policies of either one of them, and I would like to hear a little bit more from both of them,” said Eleanor Schwartz, 73, a registered Democrat in Florida who says she’s undecided.

Schwartz’s friend, Obama supporter Honey Sager, brought her to a July 19 campaign rally for the president at their West Palm Beach retirement community.

Jobs Concern

“Today he sounded very encouraging, but having two grandsons who have been having trouble getting jobs, I want to know how he’s going to make it better,” Schwartz said.

Dennis Smith, 50, of Newport News, Virginia, described himself as reluctantly supporting Romney while wanting to hear more about his policies.

“Other than repealing Obamacare,” Smith said, referring to the national health-care law, “I’m not seeing the nuts and bolts of his economic plan.”

Romney “doesn’t break it down, for instance, how are you going to reform the tax code?” Smith said. He also said the Republican “doesn’t come across with any charisma.”

Many voters stressed their disgust with the negative tone that dominates the advertising run by both candidates. Out of close to 60,000 television ads paid for by the Obama and Romney campaigns in the 14-day period ended July 23, all but a few hundred were negative, according to New York-based Kantar Media’s CMAG, which tracks advertising. Obama’s campaign ran more than twice as many negative spots as Romney’s during the period, 39,171 to 17,273, CMAG data shows.

‘Dirty Politics’

“Right now it’s dirty politics; right now, both are throwing stones. That’s not the way it should be,” said Shashikant Shah, 78, a retired financial administrator in Chantilly, Virginia, who intends to vote for Obama.

“It seems like there’s a lot of fighting and arguing” on both sides, without solutions being offered, said Raymond Millard of Amherst, Ohio.

Millard commented on July 5 as he sat nursing a beer at Ziggy’s Pub and Restaurant, where Obama arrived for a surprise stop during a two-day bus tour of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Millard didn’t move from the bar, unlike the throngs of people who rushed towards the president.

‘Disappointed’ Voter

“I’m not disappointed in him particularly, just in the way things are,” said Millard, who voted for Obama in 2008. He said he likely will do so again, though this time reluctantly.

At an Obama stop during the tour in Beaver, Pennsylvania, Michael Cirelli stood outside the jewelry business he’s owned for 27 years and marveled at the dozens of people waiting for a glimpse of the president.

“I’m probably voting for Romney but I can’t say that I’m happy with my decision,” said Cirelli. “I’m not happy with who they presented to us as the Republican nominee and I’m not satisfied with the Democrats.”

Romney “needs to pick it up,” Cirelli said, and “come up with some better ideas for the economy.”

The U.S. economy cooled in the second quarter as limited job growth prompted Americans to curb spending while state and local governments cut back. Gross domestic product rose at a 1.5 percent annual rate from April through June, slowing from a revised 2.0 percent pace during the first three months of the year, the Commerce Department reported July 27.

Obama’s listeners at Green Run High School in Virginia Beach on July 13 included Beth Bailey, 38, a 2008 supporter who’s been disappointed with how he’s handled the economy.

Making Do

“We’re having to make do with what we have,” said Bailey, a data technician at the school. “My car has been on its last legs for quite a while now, we’re nursing it along.”

She said she will probably support Obama in November, though less ardently than four years ago.

“Maybe he did set himself up a little bit for failure, because people were just expecting so much,” she said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kate Andersen Brower in Washington at kandersen7@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net


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