It isn’t as though people don’t want to vote, it’s just that they don’t want to make a decision.
Making decisions is hard because you always think in the back of your mind, did I make the right decision or were there other options open that I should have taken, other paths I should have chosen?
Politicians keep trying to get more people to vote and they tell them, “Get out there and vote.” Yet the turnout in midterm elections and even the general is generally lower than what we would hope for. So, is voting really hard? Is it hard to get registered? Is it hard to find the polling place? Is it hard to get an absentee ballot?
Maybe for some people it is, but if you got as far as getting a credit card, getting your cable tv turned on, going through high school, opening a bank account, passing a test, doing a quiz or driving a car, then getting registered to vote and getting to the polling station shouldn’t be that much more difficult. I don’t think the difficulty lies in the fact that people are required to take certain steps to accomplish a goal. I think once they hit the goal, once they hit the point where they need to take action, they are blocked by something, and what they are blocked by is a huge wall of uncertainty that stands in front of them. And what is that wall called? A decision.
We can’t make a decision. I was thinking about this because I was recently given the opportunity for a medical treatment to enter a clinical trial but you had to meet certain parameters. I looked at the requirements and it looks like for most of them I qualify. Some of them, I still don’t have all the information. But the doctor who mentioned it to me said the clinical trial was closing. So, there is an end date, meaning that if I were to proceed with a particular procedure and wanted to enter the clinical trial, I would have to jump a through a number of hurdles. But I could not take all day to do it. I would have to make a decision fairly quickly. Now, do I have all the facts I need to go forward? Well, for most of us, we never do.
My primary care physician is a pretty conservative guy. I know if I ran this by him, he would look at this and say, “Oh, you need to get more information.” I think that’s the stumbling block on decision making. People need to gather more and more and more information, and then in the process of sifting and sorting and analyzing, they find they don’t have a good way to assess all the information, sort out all the options, quickly come to a conclusion and make a decision.
We’re often told to go speak to people who have competing ideas. You hear this all the time. Get a second opinion, get a third opinion. Talk to your wife, talk to your husband, talk to your boss, talk to your friends, talk to somebody who’s been there, but think about it. What’s really happening in the medical case?
We’re looking for validation, for information from survivors. We’re looking at cases where a person went through the procedure and they came out the other end, and they’re really okay. Then, you have reliability and you say, “Wow, if he can do it, then so can I.” Based on that, maybe you make a decision or you could waffle for a very long time saying, “Hmm, do I? Don’t I? Should I, shouldn’t I?”You can ask lots of people or you can just sit quietly by yourself and meditate, trust God, pray and hope the right thing will come to you. Or sleep on it overnight and see how you feel in the morning. We often do that.
So when it comes to voting, what’s the problem? The problem is there are so many choices. We’re paralyzed and it is only when there are one, two, or possibly three candidates in the final runoff election where we can say, “Okay, I just need to decide between A and B.”
And that’s where the real excitement begins.
Because one team, the A team says why they’re the best and B is the worst choice in the universe. B does the same thing. If we associate our values and policies and our aspirations and tie it to one candidate or the other, then we pretty much go with that particular person or that particular party and allow that to take us down that particular path and say, “Fine, I’m going with A,” and we don’t shift because now that we’ve made a decision, we’re feeling pretty confident that that’s the right decision for us.
The undecided voter is really the one that campaigns are after. The undecided voter sometimes appears to be an undecided voter who is simply unwilling to tell the pollster who they really think should be elected to higher office. I’m not going to get into that, but the key here is, once you have enough information, will adding in a little bit more change anything? Probably not. Unless there’s something so egregious, so offensive that comes out whether it is true or not, and it just throws a wrench into everything at the last minute and causes you to vote differently from how you were originally set up. Usually, that last piece of information coming in is negative and the reason it’s negative is that we do everything we can to avoid fear, pain, humiliation, and all the negative associations or being affiliated with a loser. We don’t want to face the humiliation of supporting a weak candidate because we made a poor decision.
If we become fearful that we’ve made the wrong choice, then we will simply stop. In a sense, we have been manipulated, but we arrive at a new decision and the decision is to go against our gut and vote for B instead of A. Then once we’ve made the decision close to or on the day of voting, then we can go to the polls. Check the box and vote. That is the action.
So, you’re faced with a problem at the beginning of a question and you need to choose among the candidates or choices in any area of your life. You gather information and try to get the best information you can. Try not to be influenced by outside sources where the information is not valid and then ultimately make your best decision. Once you have mentally committed to a particular position, then you go and you say, “Fine, I vote as an individual.”
It’s not earth-shattering, but in some cases with powerful people, it is because it can sway policy for a long time, one way or the other.
So how do you get people to vote?
Well, provide them with enough information. But I think you provide them with a balanced point of view so they can see both sides, and they know they’re not being brainwashed by one side or the other.
Allow them to sift through all that information, come to a conclusion, make a decision and vote.
Just like in the medical case decision. If I do nothing, I will miss the opportunity to enter the trial, but if I could sort through the information quickly enough, feel that I have a high enough level of confidence and make the right decision in a decent amount of time, then I could participate in and benefit from the clinical trial.
So, do four things with any decision in your life. Think, decide, vote and act.