The issues that Americans are most concerned with were scarcely mentioned by candidates during the Feb. 22 Arizona Republican debate.
According to a Sept. 2011 Pew Poll, Americans are most concerned with six critical areas; jobs, the budget deficit, health care, social security, immigration, and abortion, in decreasing order of concern (see chart below).
In total, there were 16,007 words spoken by the candidates during the debate. Only 39 words of the 16,007 were one of the six most important issues.
The voters vs. the politician
The majority of Americans will be thinking about jobs and the deficit as they head to the polls during the 2012 election season. Based upon the Arizona debate, it does not seems as though the candidates and Americans are thinking about the same things.
The number one issue- jobs- was mentioned a total of seven times throughout the debate.
If we take a calculator to this equation, the math does not seem to add up. The most important issue to 39 percent of Americans is jobs, but the actual word “jobs” was used less than 1 percent of the time.
The issues that Americans are less concerned with did not fare much better. “Deficit” was mentioned 13 times, “health care” five, and “immigration” six times. Social security and abortion were said four times each (see chat below).
Each issue accounted for less than one percent of the candidate’s response time.
So what did the candidates discuss?
Instead of focusing on the issues that Americans find to be of high importance, candidates showcased their desire to take up residence in the White House.
Together, hopefuls uttered the word “President” almost 70 times. In fact, “President” was one of the words that was used most frequently across the board during the debate.
Although candidates were able to showcase their own personal goal, they did not seem to remember who they will be leading once they become President.
Out of almost 16,007 words, Americans were only mentioned two times.
Back to the future
Instead of looking toward the future (“future” was only mentioned eight times), candidates focused on President Obama’s mistakes, mentioning “Obama” 38 times.
“If we’re going to have a debate about who the extremist is on these issues, it is President Obama who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion,” said Gingrich.
Candidates followed Gingrich’s lead and continually pointed out what Obama did wrong during his time as president instead of discussing what they will do in 2012. It seemed as if candidates were already prepping for the race against Obama instead of showcasing their policies to beat out the other republican candidates, which of course was the reason for holding a primary season debate.
Debating tit for tat
Candidates choose to avoid straight talk about the issues and instead attacked one and other. The exchanges between candidates, specifically Rick Santorum (R-Kan.) and Mitt Romney (R-Ma.), seemed to be senseless banter.
Santorum: Wait a second. You’re entitled to your opinions, Mitt. You’re not entitled to-
Romney: I’ve heard that line before. I’ve heard that before, yes.
Santorum: —misrepresent the facts, and you’re misrepresenting the facts. You don’t know what you’re talking about.
It seems as though the Republican debate was a synopsis of the past with a very small glimpse into the future. But the question still remains, what would America be like if any of the Republican candidates were to become President?
Although some Americans believe the future looks bleak with Obama in power, is it uncertain what kind of future Republican voters see.
Candidates seem to be incapable of clearly expressing their solutions to the issues Americans are most concerned with. The Arizona debate illustrates the lack of substance and focus that the candidates have put forth thus far.