COMMENTARY | Do you know enough about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, the two candidates running for president, to make an informed decision on Election Day? Most registered voters feel that they do.
According to a Pew Research Center poll , 90 percent of registered American voters think they know all they need to know about President Obama to make a choice in November. Given the unprecedented vetting by the media since his announced candidacy, the 24-hour coverage of his presidency, and the glimpses into his life provided by books and investigative pieces (many of which were inspired by the “birther” allegations that the president is not a natural born citizen), it should be little wonder that voters — both those favorable and unfavorable — feel as if they know enough about him to cast their vote.
On the other side, 69 percent of registered voters also think they know enough about Romney. Romney was a high-profile governor of Massachusetts, ran for president in 2008, and has been on the campaign trail (some say since he failed in 2008) since early 2011, so he, too, has been subjected to a massive media vetting, not to mention a target of various investigative pieces into his life as both a Mormon and as a wealthy businessman.
So most voters already believe they have enough information about both candidates to make a voting decision. What if they’re wrong?
Admittedly, much of what one “knows” about candidates comes from opposition research. Not only are voters constantly misinformed by negative advertising and sound bites by political surrogates, they also have misleading and negative information bombarding them from media outlets.
Interestingly enough, the poll also found that the areas voters interested in finding out more about Romney — as Massachusetts governor (41 percent), income tax returns (36 percent), tenure at Bain Capital (35 percent) — were also the three main areas being used in attacks by Obama’s campaign.
And it should be noted that both campaigns have accused the other — and with justification — as promoting misleading and/or false information about themselves.
So do voters actually know enough about the candidates? And how much of what they think they know is accurate? How many voters have done research about the candidates outside what is being said by the campaigns and what is being reported?
It truly is doubtful that voters are making fully informed decisions.