2:56 p.m. Friday 10/25/96
Voters seem to be unusually apathetic about this election. The audience for presidential debates has been smaller than in the past and the general expectation is that voter turnout will be small. One reason for this condition may be the common belief that the election outcome does not make much difference.
There are several reasons why voters may think that. The short-run economic condition seems fairly satisfactory and voters may have come to think, whether from the opinions of economists or from their own experience, that the president doesn't have much effect on the economy, at least within the time period that most people think about. Some of the subjects that voters do worry about--crime and education, for example--are not traditionally the primary responsibility of the Federal government. There are people who think that the country is going through a spiritual or cultural crisis, but none of our candidates look like the person who could lead a great awakening in those aspects of our lives--if, indeed, any president could be expected to do that.
These propositions may all be wrong or greatly exaggerated. This week, we want to explore what difference the election does make. Our panelists are students and observers of American history and politics. They are not invited to serve as surrogates for one or another candidate, although it is inevitable that each will have a leaning one way or the other. What we would like is as detached and informed judgments as can be obtained about the potential significance of this election--not only the election for president but also the election for members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.