The Common Good

Zogby's Purple People Poll

While most political junkies were distracted by the big news of the week - the economic meltdown, the first presidential debate - the good people at Zogby International and the Norman Lear Center released a poll whose title warmed my very heart: Meet the Purples! (Trust me. The exclamation mark is all theirs.)

Bearing the subheadline "Decoding the DNA of the Swing Voter," the press release outlined the habits, preferences, and lifestyles of "purples" - one of three distinct groups that emerged from the results of a poll in which participants responded to 42 political statements. The other two groups, not surprisingly, are conservative reds and liberal blues, and are heavily invested in the two major parties. The rest of us, I suppose, will always be labeled "swing" voters even though that label rankles the more opinionated and less easily influenced among us.

But back to the findings. The first time I skimmed through the section on purples' media habits, "rankle" didn't begin to describe what the results did to my delicate nature. We don't read blogs? We head for the TV in our spare time? We rely on our local paper for news? Hey, I wrote the book on purples,* and none of that sounded like any purple people I knew. But apparently 83 percent of us are happy, and since I didn't want to be stuck among the 17 percent who are miserable, I decided to go back and look for the parts that might brighten my spirits.

They weren't all that hard to find. It turns out that the purples Zogby and Lear found may be more like me than I originally thought. Here's where I found points of agreement:

  • Few of us watch Fox News.
  • Some of our favorite shows are House, CSI, Criminal Minds, and two variations on the Law & Order theme. Okay, I can live with that, even though the last four are mostly useful as occasional background noise when the house is way too quiet. (60 Minutes, Sunday Night Football, and Two and a Half Men also made the list.)
  • Stuff most of us never watch: reality shows. Yes! Kindred spirits!
  • We don't have a favorite talking head. Check.
  • We don't listen to talk radio. Check.
  • We go online for news and other information.
  • We couldn't care less about celebrity endorsements.

I do think those outweighed the points of disagreement (NBC for news? Letterman and Leno? Google as a favorite Web site? I think not). But in the next section, describing 17 ideological characteristics of purples, I really saw the purple people I know and love and hang out with. The poll respondents gave a thumbs down to wedge issues, the war in Iraq, and career politicians while expressing concern over the environment, the less fortunate, and the demonization of illegal immigrants.

Naturally, I disagreed with some of the ideological responses; I wouldn't be a good independent if I didn't. A two-part example: 57 percent said security is more important than civil liberties. (Can't we have both?) And in response to an odd question, 74 percent placed a higher value on freedom than on equality. Huh? What on earth does that mean? If anyone can enlighten me on this, please do. I'm sure "freedom" and "equality" are code words of some sort, but I still don't get the connection. And again I ask: Can't we have both?

There was more, much more, but you'll just have to check out the poll for yourself if you're all that interested. I need to go watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report to find out the day's news before I check out my favorite web site, ComedyCentral.com. I mean, Sojo.net.

*Marcia Ford is the author of We the Purple: Faith, Politics and the Independent Voter.

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