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The BBC's Tom Carver
"Essential stop on any campaign trail"
 real 28k

banner Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 12:42 GMT 13:42 UK
Do the voters care?
Three voters watching one of the presidential TV debates
Not all voters are indifferent to the election
By Tom Carver in Miami

I have a theory about the American electorate and the low turnout: it's not that they don't care about the election. It's that they don't care for these candidates.

It's a bit like someone you don't like very much inviting you to his or her party. Would you go?

Well, you might do, if you were a serious party animal. But most people would be much more likely to go if they were invited by someone they really liked.

I'm not defending America's poor showing at the polls.


Many of those who seem indifferent have thought quite hard about it

In fact I think voting in a general election should be compulsory like it is in Australia. After all, many things of a more dubious value are compulsory in America such as parking facing the same direction as the traffic, something which I, as a Brit, still find curious.

What I'm saying is that it's wrong to assume Americans are indifferent to the process.

I actually think that many of those who seem indifferent have thought quite hard about it. At least, they know enough about the candidates not to feel excited about either of them.

'Gush and Bore'

One of those I talked to in our webcast from Florida, Radhe Vaswani, an American/Jamaican student at the University of Miami had clearly thought about the candidates but she couldn't relate to them.

It's not hard to see why. Both are white men, sons of politicians. They talk much the same language. The four letters in their names spell: "Gush and Bore".

Anyway, to prove - or disprove - my theory, I'm going to embark on a completely unscientific investigation.

Eric Bell, formerly of the UK and now a US citizen, suggested asking some ordinary people some "basic questions" on the candidates.

So, I'm going to ask 10 indifferent voters a day, during our election challenge trip this week, three questions to see how well informed people are:

1. Where does each candidate come from?

2. Which one was once a Senator?

3. Which candidate supports the death penalty?

I'll let you know the results on Friday.


This is the first in a series of reports by Washington correspondent Tom Carver written in response to questions from BBC News Online users as part of our Vote USA 2000 Election Challenge coverage.

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Links to more Election challenge stories are at the foot of the page.


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