Voter fatigue sets in

Until about 2-1/2 weeks ago, Ed Soto used to get home from work, turn on the TV and watch CNN into the night for the latest political news.

About now, he’s sick of it.

“I don’t agree with a lot of the assessments that are being made,” said Soto, 22. “A lot of the commentators on TV, they’re getting on my nerves, and I’m tired of hearing ‘the best political team on television.’ ”

He’s tired of the same stories recycled over and over again. He stopped following the race closely after the Texas, Rhode Island, Ohio and Vermont primaries/caucuses.

“All they kept doing was rehashing and looking at the demographics — slice and dice, slice and dice,” Soto said. “When the preacher flap happened, I would watch (CNN) for a half-hour or so, and then turn it off.”

With four weeks to go until Pennsylvania’s presidential primary, some voters already are sick of the hype, the endless cable-news commentary, the pundits and the scandal du jour. Unfortunately for those who feel that way, it’s only going to get worse.

With nary a state caucus nor other primary to serve as a distraction between now and April 22, the media spotlight will shine on Pennsylvania for another month. Those who think they know a lot about the Democratic candidates, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, soon are going to know a lot more — whether they want to or not.

Not everyone is put off by the thought.

“I’m loving every minute of it,” says John Ciganik, 25. “To have Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (as candidates), it’s an exciting time in American history if you look at the racial barriers and barriers as far as sex that have existed in the past.”

He watches MSNBC and the BBC, to get a different perspective on the election, and listens to National Public Radio. He also regularly checks out debates, speeches and other election-related videos on YouTube.

“I really do a lot on my own because of the way the media can manipulate sound bites and speeches,” Ciganik says. “I’m energized. The only thing that would fatigue me is interacting with people who are uninformed.”

Some voters aren’t so much fatigued as they are temporarily disinterested.

The silver lining to this elongated campaign season is that the election continues to build excitement for voters who see that their vote still matters, said Allyson Lowe, a political-science professor and director of the Pennsylvania Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy.

“What we’ve seen in other primary states is that a lot of voters have made up their minds in the two to three days right before the primary,” Lowe says.

There will be early deciders and “traditional late deciders who will live their lives and make the decision when the decision is near, but they’re not watching every (TV) ad and every debate … reading every last blog entry and every last CNN news alert,” she said.

Michael Thomas had been following election developments fairly closely but lost steam after “less Super Tuesday,” when Ohio and Texas voted.

“It is beginning to feel like the two weeks before the Super Bowl where the lowliest bench player’s life is examined in minute detail in order to fill space,” says Thomas, 36. “Only, instead of two weeks, it is months.”

He expected hype but has grown weary of small things being blown up into a “game-changing, momentum-shifting” event, he said.

The media are showing more visible signs of fatigue than the public, says Thomas E. Patterson, a professor specializing in government and the press at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

“It’s more like they’re running out of stories,” he said. “The question each morning is ‘What’s the daily distraction?’ and I do think that’s taking the campaign in a direction that’s not helpful to the candidates and not helpful to the voters.”

(L.A. Johnson can be reached at ljohnson(at)