Why Campaigns Have So Few “Game-Changers”

My latest post at Model Politics looks at public knowledge of three recent political events: Santorum’s statement about birth control, Obama’s call to Sandra Fluke, and Santorum’s comment about Obama’s snobbery.  The survey data show an unsurprising, but often forgotten, fact: a substantial fraction of Americans aren’t so riveted by this campaign that they know much about these events.  Here’s one graph, based on the survey item about who called Fluke—Limbaugh, Romney, or Obama:

My conclusion:

To point out that many Americans do not know the answers to such questions is in no way to impugn their intelligence or citizenship.  People are busy and have many interests.  They do not always have the time, inclination, or need to follow politics very closely.  These survey results actually do more to question the assumptions of commentators, who are often anxious to inflate every argument during the campaign to a “game changer”—even if many Americans aren’t really watching the game.

More here.

4 Responses to Why Campaigns Have So Few “Game-Changers”

  1. Hans Noel March 14, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    This is an important result, and one that is not as well appreciated as it should be. But does it really explain why there are so few “game changers”?

    The respondents who do not know the answers to these questions are not, as you put it, “watching the game.” They probably are also not participating in the game. They are not voting in the primaries, and many of the least engaged don’t vote even in the general election.

    But the game is still played, and those who do vote in primaries often are watching. And they are more likely to know these things.

    And yet there are still not many game changers. Not because no voters hear about these things, but because those that do hear about them have _mostly_ already arrived at their opinions about the candidates. All of which reminds me of your earlier post: http://themonkeycage.org/blog/2012/03/14/bush-and-the-911-saddam-link

    • John Sides March 14, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

      Fair point, Hans, and I completely agree. It’s not just that some people’s aren’t tuning in. It’s that the people who do are the least persuadable.

  2. Matt March 15, 2012 at 12:18 am #


    I know this is not the subject of the post, but how did knowledge on these issues break down by gender? I know that most political knowledge questions tend to show fewer women getting correct answers (for a multitude of reasons) but these issues might be an exception. I am just curious.

  3. Matt Jarvis March 15, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    Have you read the comments there?

    Maybe the problem is those numbers are too high!