TED Conversations

Daniel Gulley

This conversation is closed.

Increasing voter turnout in primaries would dramatically improve the American system and result in more candidates with moderate positions.

It occurred to me that if I placed a bell curve over this simple linear model of politics I could show the distribution of American political attitudes.


I divided the moderates such that conservative moderates are located from center to 1 standard deviation(SD) to the right of the mean and liberal moderates are from center to 1 SD to the left of the mean.

What this shows is that the majority of Americans are in the middle of the political spectrum.

This is where I may coin a term "the 68%". The 68% are the majority of Americans. They are working class Americans, students, teachers, parents, grandparents and veterans. They are by definition moderate being somewhere to the right and left of center and everywhere in between.

The two parties usually employ sensitive issues to fire up the base and to divide and distract those people in the middle of the political spectrum, the 68%. They agree on virtually all accounts except for abortion, and maybe gay marriage. Regardless these two issues are deployed every election cycle to divide and distract, and after every cycle the status quo, the state of affairs on abortion and same-sex marriage, remains the same.

But if most Americans are somewhere in the middle, why do our candidates come from the left and right of center?

Voter turnout in the primaries is very low compared to during the general election, and sometimes it is as low as 1% or lower (it averages probably around 10-15% but can get as high as 25-30%).

The result is the simple truth that while those in the middle of the political spectrum, the moderate majority decides who will be our president, it is those people on the far left and right (the fringes) that decide who the two candidates will be. In essence the 68% do choose who will be President but it is the 1% and the 10% that decide who will run.

Primaries are just as important as general elections!!!


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Dec 19 2012: It sounds to me lthat your first assumption that "political opinion" is a simple scalar variable which goes from extremely conservative to extremely liberal, or something like that. Isn't that grossly simplistic?
    It also sounds like your main assumption, very common among people in the USA, is that political elections are decided primarily by the voters when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. The political process in the USA is determined largely by special interest groups, where those who throw the most money at an issue are usually the most successful. The dominant position of the media to manipulate and control public opinion needs to be understood.
    The fact that barely 50% of eligible voters participate in a presidential election, with fewer in congressional and far fewer in most state and local elections, also needs to be understood. How many non-voters abstain because they find none of the candidates acceptable? How many are simply apathetic? A careful review of the Ron Paul campaign last year might be strongly educational, because the language used by the major media were extremely influential in scuttling the candidacy, without discussing the merits of his positions on various issues ... at least it seemed to me that he took positions and made them clear while other major candidates attempted to placate and please as many constituents as possible while concentrating on lambast and vague platitudes.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.