Information Leaves Voters Undecided

By James Q. Lynch and Rod Boshart, Reporters

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Don't call them "low-information voters."

It's just the opposite, according to a panel of undecided voters who accepted an invitation from The Gazette and KCRG-TV9 to watch the first of three debates between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney Oct. 3.

They feel overwhelmed by all the information available to them. However, they lack key information they need to make up their minds.

"There's been so much information and advertising pumped our way," said Russ Seaver of Marion just before the debate began. "That's why I focus on the debates. They need to sift through the noise and point out to me what's important."

Ninety minutes later, he remained undecided and disappointed he hadn't heard more specifics from the candidates.

He's having more difficulty making a decision than in previous presidential elections because "neither candidate has excited me about anything," Seaver said. "It's going to be choosing the lesser of two evils," Russ said.

Also, he thinks there's more at stake, but it's also the candidates and the campaigns they have chosen to run.

"I see what's happened with Obama as president. I don't know what would happen with Romney as president, but he hasn't told me anything that he will do specifically other than telling me what's wrong with Obama," Seaver said.

His wife, Sandi, heard some things she liked. If she could take some of Romney's ideas and some from Obama she might have the ideal candidate.

"I'm still not leaning one way or another ... but I dislike them less," Sandi said. She plans to make a pro and con chart from her notes "and go from there."

Eric McClintock of Ely, who sells real estate, was just as undecided as he was before the debate started and, although he liked much of what he heard from Romney. He thought the GOP challenger showed more passion and energy throughout the debate.

Their interest and thirst for information may set the McClintock and the Seavers apart from the majority of undecided voters.

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll found undecided voters just aren't paying attention. A third of those polled said they didn't know enough to give President Obama a job rating. Sixty percent could not identify Speaker of the House John Boehner as a member of the U.S. House, according to a YouGov poll for the Cooperative Campaign Analysis Project.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll also found that undecideds don't particularly like either Obama or Romney and would like to have more choices.

McClintock mentioned he wished former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, included in the debate.

"I really don't like either of them," added Sandi, who works for a Cedar Rapids insurance group. "I want a third choice."

One alternative they mentioned was Texas Rep. Ron Paul, who was a candidate for the GOP nomination. McClintock thinks whoever wins the election should make Paul the treasury secretary.

Russ Seaver wished Bill Clinton could run again.

"We had a better economy when he was president," said Seaver, who was busy making copious notes during the debate.

The economy was these undecided voters' top concern, but they don't think the candidates recognize the urgency they feel.

"I think both have avoided how dire it is," McClintock said.

That makes choosing a president more difficult for Sandi Seaver.

"I feel like it's a bigger gamble who I vote for this time because of the economy," she said.

Russ Seaver worries about the impact of a budget deal that calls for automatic spending cuts that likely would result in job layoffs in the defense industry.

"That will impact us here and not just those people who work at (Rockwell)," he said. "We can't hang our hat on defense spending, but it affects others. It affects people who build homes and sell cars. It affects my business."

Still undecided, the trio plans to watch the next two debates. In addition to economic issues, McClintock wants to hear what Obama and Romney have to say about the war in Afghanistan and conflicts in the Middle East.

"I'm very interested," said McClintock. "It's just that I feel like it's the weight of the world, like out vote is the one that matters ... that our vote is going to be the deciding one."
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