The Lohan Effect: Will Romney Get a Boost from Low-Information Voters?

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Brooks Kraft / Corbis for TIME

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan campaign in Lancaster, Ohio, on Oct. 12, 2012

As his standing in the polls improves, Mitt Romney is piling up public endorsements from a new cohort of voters: the celebrity-train-wreck set.

The latest celebrity to climb aboard the Romney bandwagon is actress and Page Six piñata Lindsay Lohan.  “I just think employment is really important right now,” Lohan said. “So, as of now, Mitt Romney.” She joins Clueless actress Stacey Dash, wrestler Hulk Hogan and adult-film star Jenna Jameson on the Celebs for Romney booster squad. How much does this matter? Narrowly speaking, not at all. None of these people live in competitive states, it’s unlikely their opinions will sway a soul, and wealthier people tend to vote Republican anyway based on their economic self-interest. (If you don’t buy those charts, take it from Jameson: “When you’re rich, you want a Republican in office.”)

But the celebrity migration to the Romney camp, as Walter Hickey of Business Insider noted, may be a symptom of a potentially serious problem for Barack Obama: an indication that so-called low-information voters, many of whom supported Obama in 2008, will abandon the President’s re-election bid. The conviction that undecided voters will break late against the incumbent has always been a pillar of the Romney campaign’s strategy.

(PHOTOS: Political Pictures of the Week, Oct. 5–11)

In political handicapping, the belief that voters who remain undecided late in the race ultimately swing toward the challenger is known as the “incumbent rule.” The soundness of the theory is up for debate. The incumbent rule was broken in 2004, when George W. Bush and John Kerry split undecided voters fairly evenly. But the demographics of this year’s group of undecided voters may in fact favor Romney. One survey jointly conducted by one Democratic and one Republican pollster for the Wall Street Journal/NBC News found that of voters considered “up for grabs” — either undecided or leaning slightly — 68% are white, 53% are male, and 60% disapprove of Obama’s performance.

Which isn’t to say Romney can count on undecided voters breaking his way. UCLA political scientist Lynn Vavreck has been tracking a large group of uncommitted voters since December 2011. As they’ve made up their minds, those voters have gravitated in roughly equal numbers to Romney and Obama. Obama “has the advantage among undecided voters who are making choices as Election Day draws near,” Vavreck wrote recently.

Regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, there is reason to lament the attention lavished on a relatively tiny cadre of undecided voters, many of whom are ambivalent or indifferent because their grasp of the facts is hazy. Ezra Klein wrote recently about a Saturday Night Live bit that lampooned undecided voters. “We’re not impressed by political spin and 30-second sound bites,” says one of the skit’s actors. “Before you get our vote, you’re going to have to answer some questions. Questions like, ‘When is the election?’ ‘How soon do we have to decide?’ ‘What are the names of the two people running?’ ”

(PHOTOS: On the Trail with Romney)

This satire is laced with kernels of truth. There are, of course, plenty of intelligent and engaged voters who have studied the candidates’ positions and remain genuinely torn. But the bulk of undecided voters are undecided because they are not trying very hard. The vast gulfs between Obama and Romney — on taxes, social-welfare programs, the budget, energy, immigration, abortion and so forth — are so pronounced on so many policy issues that it seems difficult for an informed voter to struggle with his or choice. As Newsweek‘s Michelle Cottle writes:

Ask the political scientists, pollsters, and other professional analyzers of the electorate who parse these sorts of things. They will tell you — as they have told me repeatedly over the years — that undecideds or swing voters or whatever you want to call them tend to be low-information folks who cast their ballots based on whichever candidate gives them the last-minute warm-and-fuzzies.

Take, for example, another celebrity Romney fan whose endorsement caused a hullabaloo recently. Buzz Bissinger is the author of Friday Night Lights and a native, he wrote in his endorsement, of the nation’s “nexus of liberalogy,” [sic] the Upper West Side of Manhattan. “There is a part of me that feels like a traitor,” Bissinger wrote, in a kind of hyperbolic confessional designed to imbue his opinion with the gravitas of the converted. “I fear that I will lose friends, some of whom I hold inside my heart.” And yet there he was, bravely risking the wrath of his wife and the brie-and-Chardonnay set by outing himself as a Mitt Romney supporter.

(MORE: Romney’s Move to the Middle)

So how did Romney win him over? In sum, he spoke faster at the debate in Denver. “Romney did not simply act like he wanted to be president. He wants to be president,” Bizzinger said, with no evidence at all. “He showed vigor, and enthusiasm, and excitement, a man who wants to lead.” And Obama? He “dipped into the podium as if avoiding the smell of something rotten, acting above the very idea that a debate does provide a pivotal referendum on his first term,” Bissinger wrote. “I am not sure Obama really wants to be president in any practical way.”

This is the kind of trenchant analysis that moves undecided voters toward a candidate. Mocked for the flimsiness of his logic, Bissinger penned a follow-up piece to defend himself against an onslaught of criticism that dubbed him a classic l0w-information voter. His retort? “I spend five to six hours preparing for [a radio show] each day and do nothing now but read politics from a variety of differing viewpoints,” he wrote. “I may be a misinformed voter but I am not a low-information one.” Misinformed or ill informed, this is the type of voter that both sides need to win.

MORE: What Happened at the First Presidential Debate

212 comments
JocelynGallant
JocelynGallant

Low Informations Voter should not have a right to vote because they don't know the differences when it comes to our communding cheif. That distryed our country. People in Nursing Homes, people in prisons, school age children, college under age 28th should not have that pervrlage to vote. include people on public assistance should not be allowed to vote.

stevchipmunk
stevchipmunk

The election is coming down to just a few more weeks.  The camps are sharply polarized.  No self respecting Obama supporter would even consider voting for Romney... and vice versa.  So the election will depend on how a thin sliver of the electorate -- clearly "low information" types -- who are now "Undecided."  Who are these "Undecideds" who still don't know enough about these two sharply differentiated candidates... to make a decision?  And the election depends on these people?

For these "low information Undecideds", I think Facts don't matter -- in fact, they will confuse these people. Looks, personality count a lot. Grand gestures count a lot. Simple, uncomplicated, stuff counts a lot.

In this next debate, the guy who reassures this voter -- with simple declaratory facts, statements, even lies -- about how he will Fix the Economy will win the vote. (Remember, IT'S THE ECONOMY, STUPID). Sadly, Obama is behind the 8 ball in this conversation, since he has defend his poor record of the last 4 years, and he has to answer the question: What will he do different the next 4 years? True, he can say the Obstructionist Republicans prevented him from doing more. But those Obstructionist Republicans will still be there during the next 4 years. So what will Obama do?

Romney has the much easier job of looking good, smiling good, and just promise m-a-ve-lous things... The caveat is that Romney must resist saying anything stupid to turn off Independent and Undecided Voters... something he has been finding hard to do. But if he just can keep his foot away from his mouth for just a few more weeks, the election is his. Luckily, it may prove too difficult for him and Ryan to avoid saying the things that are guranteed to piss of Independents and Undecideds.

The nation holds its breath.

\\\

CissyRenee
CissyRenee

On both sides there are many low information voters that like to talk/lie about it but, whe it comes down to it, the majority don't even bother to vote.

fotbsmember
fotbsmember

lohan and her booze soak brain is for romney well I' am really impressed that a booze addicted movie star is for romney what an endorsement!!!

he_who_scoffs_at_danger
he_who_scoffs_at_danger

In other news, Obama just scored an endorsement from Honey Boo Boo. 

...not, however, holding my breath until that meaningless factoid gets lathered up into Serious News Narrative about the character of the electorate. 

ggmary
ggmary

So Mitt Romney thinks 47% of Americans are slackers who sit around waiting for government handouts. Clearly he’s clueless about the country he wants to govern. And it’s not the first time he’s displayed an utter lack of empathy for the average person — unless, of course, that person is a corporation.

Birth control, Planned Parenthood, equal pay laws, the right to earned family leave, and the right to control our own bodies and health care decisions are all issues that have dominated the political debate this year, and the GOP doesn’t support women’s issues at all. Romney's playing politics with issues that directly impact women's lives.

The real Romney is the one we've known for the past six years:

-- He said he'd be "delighted" to sign a bill banning all abortions.

-- He called Roe v. Wade "one of the darkest moments of Supreme Court history" -- and he's pledged to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn it the first chance they got.

-- He has supported state constitutional amendments that would redefine life as starting at the moment of conception, banning not only abortions but also some forms of birth control.

Romney's not flip-flopping, or moving to the middle. He's making a highly cynical choice, telling his audience whatever he thinks they want to hear -- and we can't let this dishonesty fool women voters.

demna
demna

Both sides have low-information voters, anyone who says otherwise is a LIAR Period.

talaricg
talaricg

I'm one of those "undecided swing voters", and saying that they're uninformed, or that they two candidates positions are so different that it's hard for people to truly remain undecided is insulting. There are people who are fiscally conservative, but socially liberal or fiscally liberally and socially conservative who are truly having a hard time picking what is more important to them. Because this country doesn't seem to believe in moderate candidates, many voters are being forced to pick the lesser of two evils.

chinesecook
chinesecook

some anyone opposite your review of how things should go is "clueless"? 

ahandout
ahandout

Time is the home of low information voters. 

bebo
bebo

"Low information" translates to stupid?  Do you think people will vote for Romney because they are too ignorant?  "Team Obama?"  This kind of story belongs in some liberal rag.  You suck.

Ducks in a Row
Ducks in a Row

 Do educated people vote for a guy who is a Bishop in a church that teaches black skin is a curse from God called "The Mark of Cain?"

Ducks in a Row
Ducks in a Row

I vote solely based on how a candidate looks in Mom Jeans.    Obama wears them once in a blue moon (the last time was when he threw out a pitch for the White Sox) but Mitt wears them all the time!  And they are really unflattering.  I do not know if I can handle looking at that for four years.  Gross!

http://www.zimbio.com/Is+Mitt+...

Andrew Colias
Andrew Colias

DISCLAIMER: Being one of more than three hundred million Americans, I recognize that my opinion is effectively irrelevant; however, my posting here demonstrates the irrelevance to me of my own irrelevance.

Hm. Methinks I shall use this disclaimer henceforth.

Anyway, I must question the relevance of information for politics. No, seriously. What is the purpose of informed voters? Is it to engender political consensus? If so, then I would counter that undemocratic and illiberal methods are more effective. Death is solution to all problems: no man, no problem. Or is it to enable popular sovereignty? If so, then I would counter that popular sovereignty is independent of information. Besides, popularity is a poor arbiter of truth. Is it to ensure successful policies? If so, then I would counter that precedent disproves this inevitability.

Democracy and republics are supposedly rule by the People, but for what purpose? Because the People, whoever and whatever that is, manifest superior judgment? I judge otherwise; by the aforementioned measure, if I am one of the People, then my judgment seemingly contradicts this premise. Because the People collectively hinder tyranny? I am sympathetic to this idea insofar as tyranny, by concentrating power, seems more conducive to abuse.

This article raises the concept of informed voters. Do we have them? Apparently, we do not. Should we have them? Apparently, we should. Why should we have them? Because informed voters can discern truth and achieve consensus accordingly? I am unconvinced that information engenders this. Knowledge is plentiful, wisdom is not.

bebo
bebo

And imagine Lindsay's lawyer is a black woman.  She's a winner in the courtroom.  I'd say the money's on Lindsay.  Maybe you could get a job at a suicide hotline after the election.

gmenfan54
gmenfan54

Lohan effect meaning getting thrown in jail.

kahnkeller
kahnkeller

... the major disaster being over looked here is... if these two are the best that we as a people can put forth to lead the nation... we are doomed....

Galen
Galen

 and your take is part of the doomed.

that makes you a conservative.

kahnkeller
kahnkeller

...welll... here is the thing... tomorrow I may cheer up  (not feel doomed)... but

no matter what happens tomorrow...or next year or next 10 years... you will

still be.... stupid.... I guess that makes you... a democrat?

qyna
qyna

The fact that we have such a large number of uninformed voters in this country, some of whom could not grasp the relevancy of particular positions even if they were explained to them in simple language and others of whom could care less but vote anyway, is what frightens me most about the future of this country. That we have such voters affecting the outcome of elections in this country is a travesty. Yes, they are entitled to vote, however, when they vote against their own best interest and do not get what they feel they deserve, they will be the first to stand up and complain. You reap what you sow.

kiwiage
kiwiage

Uhhhhhhhh, and that didn't work for Obama? He is the KING of low information. Just google Howard Stern's interviews in the bronx. I don't think the republicans have a monopoly on this one brother.

http://www.bronx.com/video/wat...

misterjag
misterjag

Does Lohan have any product endorsement deals?

sacredh
sacredh

D0uche on a Stick. It not only smells good, it's fun to use!

bebo
bebo

Your pervert is  showing,

sacredh
sacredh

It's back in now. Why were you looking? More importantly, why are you drooling?

SuperShrug
SuperShrug

Low information voters don't even know what day it is or where to go.

Macdonald Bank
Macdonald Bank

Romney as

President; would mean the darkest amp; meanest period in the United States of

America’s history.  Homophobic --

witchcraft would rule the government from Rome amp; Salt Lake City …!

 

bebo
bebo

That is the only reason I support Romney.   To take down all these smug , self-entitled gays.  I don't want a world of two daddys, and two mommys.  Gays got along fine before all this.  No gay marriage, Supreme Court uphold DOMA.  Gay sex isn't enough to sustain a marriage.  It's fine for a one night stand.  It will be Christmas day for me if this is shot  down big time..

sacredh
sacredh

It really sounds as if you're obsessed with gays. Being gay doesn't make a person bad. Being straight doesn't make a person good. It's only sexual preference. It's a very small part of what makes up an individual. I can't stand country music or reality tv. I don't listen to country music or watch reality tv. Problem solved.

.

If two women or two men want to get married and live together, how can that possibly affect you? Does just the knowledge that someone else is doing something you don't like keep you awake? I'm an atheist. my son is going to be a minister. I deal with it by realizing that it's HIS life and he isn't living it to please me. He's doing what he wants, not what I want.

sacredh
sacredh

You're only supporting Romney because you don't like gays? Take them down in a wrestling move? Nude. Sweating. Hairy. Nostrils flared. Eyes wide. Naughty bits touching.

.

Cleanup in aisle 5.

Macdonald Bank
Macdonald Bank

Where is

the LOVE?

Where is

the compassion that religion should reflect upon the gay community?

Being gay

is something one is born as … and something that a person should be proud of …!

Perhaps

its time to embrace all the members of the gay community with respect and

dignity!

 

Religious Republican

zombies are coming out of the woodwork -- descending on America! Scary or what?

Romney;

would be the equivalent to the Taliban -- in his treatment to the gay community

-- with his extreme cultist attitude … if ever elected!

Religion; is the biggest bully on the block!

IRS

codes prohibit churches from endorsing or opposing political candidates!

The

IRS … should immediately tax churches -- that break that rule!

Churches

-- are opposing gay rights -- based on a cult! Tax them or shut them down!

Roman

Catholic; Baptist amp; Mormon churches who were involved in Proposition 8;

against the gay community – should be shut down immediately and/or have their

tax exemption status revoked!

Church

manses; mansions; corporate jets and Christian college campuses … should face

taxes or be shut down -- based on corruption and/or being involved in cultism!

Mormons are nothing more than homophobic bigots and

lustful religious lunatics; who harvested women … attempting to scrutinize themselves;

into eternity – without success!

mrivera1119
mrivera1119

Honestly, I am well educated, well read and well travelled. I have never met a Republican intellectual. 

bebo
bebo

Well... Well... Well...You may have, but they found you so obnoxious they didn't bother.

mrivera1119
mrivera1119

No dear, they spoke to me and were quite charming.  Brains were obviously missing. Example: Some of them thought New Mexico was another country, not a state!!!!

Jamie
Jamie

I would argue that a lot of undecideds are undecided because neither is appealing to them. There are "vast" differences in the promises they make, but informed people know they are promises that won't be kept. There are a number of other reasons people are undecided about Obama, but that doesn't mean they sway Romney as he is a total buffoon. Of course, I could be giving people too much credit. And people like Lindsay Lohan won't even vote anyway.

1adfk2
1adfk2

Just look at the polling maps...the majority of ignorant states are RED. And also, statistically proven after Mitten's ignorant 47% remarks...the state populations most on the government doll are...SURPRISE..RED!! Republicans are not only the Party of No and the Party of Obstructions, but they are the Party of Ignorance. Need proof? Where's their last idiot president, George W.? Hiding his dumb arse. Don't get me started on Baraccuda Barbie and the Old Man in 2008. What a completely screwed up Party!!

xzaebos
xzaebos

I laugh when someone questions my intelligence using the most uninspired and dull language. Your feeble attempts to use "witty" insults is reminiscent of a tyke. Keep trying though. I'm sure you'll become really snarky and ultra popular to the other idiots who believe that those in "red" states are ignorant.

Michelle Cooper
Michelle Cooper

Yes, they come from the lands of Honey Boo Boo. That sums up their collective intelligence quotient or IQ right there.

lancedal
lancedal

Not only low-information, they are "low-on-memory" too. Got raped every 2 years by politician, yet don't remember a thing they said.

I'm willing to admid that OB was vague and not very convincing in his 1st debate. But if  you don't see the lies in Romney and Ryan, you are unrepairable.