With the 2012 Presidential election less than a week away, many Hopkins students have already sent in their absentee ballots. Amidst a bombardment of political messaging from President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney in what has been one of the most divisive elections in American history, it is easy to forget that there are voters who have not yet been persuaded by either campaigns — “the undecideds.”
According to CNN, undecided voters make up between 3 and 8 percent of the national electorate. At Hopkins, that number is slightly higher; according to The News-Letter’s straw poll, 10 percent of Hopkins students are undecided.
Though this voluntary, random sampling is not completely conclusive, undecided students are the minority on campus. Despite the relatively few undecideds, both candidates have emphasized the importance of this undecided minority in their campaigns. Since the election will likely come down to a margin of far less than the percentage of undecided voters, they may well spell the difference between four more years of an Obama Presidency and a Romney victory.
Senior Cara Kaplan attributes Hopkins’s relatively large number of undecided voters to what she sees as an apolitical culture on campus.
“I think that at Hopkins it can be hard to stay informed about politics and that unless students are willing to put in the time, they simply do not know all the various policy issues and viewpoints of each candidate,” she said. “Some people don’t want to vote unless they are informed...but they also may not be willing to put in the time.”
Sophomore Brandie Morris agrees that many students are undecided because they do not have knowledge of the candidates.
“I don’t think people want to vote just for the sake of voting. They don’t have time to get informed.”
However, undecided senior James Verdone says that he has not made up his mind not because he’s uninformed, but because he does not like what he sees in the political arena.
“Neither of them offers specific, logical reforms that will address the issues at hand. Obama doesn’t look like he’s going to cut the necessary things and Romney just vaguely says ‘we’re cutting things’ without giving specifics.”
Sophomore Joanna Wexler, an undecided voter, watched the debates with rapt attention.
“I thought that overall Romney fared better in the debates. So I guess that would sway me to him. That being said, I felt that Biden was better than Ryan. However, I am a ‘top of the ticket’ voter, so the presidential debates matter more to me than the VP ones do.”
No single issue will determine Wexler’s decision this election.
“There isn’t just one issue. If there was, I wouldn’t be undecided,” she said.
This brings up an often ignored nuance of electoral politics; while the vocal majority believes passionately in their side of an issue, many undecided voters do not have zealous belief in certain hot-button issues that serve to divide the electorate. Ultimately, many of these undecided voters will chose to support the candidate that they deem the lesser of the evils, or they will express their dissatisfaction by abstaining from the vote altogether.
For Wexler, the decision of who to vote for has come down to who she feels she can trust.
“Overall, it comes down to who I believe will do what they say and will follow through on their policies,” Wexler said. “Also while I vote for a candidate personally, I have to take their parties’ views into account and that has had a significant impact on me this election.”
For Verdone, the main issue is balancing the budget.
“We’re just getting worse and worse regardless of who’s in charge, so we need to get someone who’s going to cut what we need to cut,” he said.