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Tracy James
IU Communications

IU election experts discuss Occupy Wall Street, debate fatigue

Editors: Remote broadcast interviews of Indiana University faculty members can be conducted using the IU Communications studio. Please contact Tracy James, 812-855-0084 or, to arrange an interview.

Feb. 16, 2012

Indiana University experts discuss the following topics:

Political influence of Occupy Wall Street, Tea Party
Too many national debates already?

Who's listening to Occupy Wall Street, Tea Party this election season?

Occupy Wall Street continues to be in the news but not on the Democratic Party's radar. While the Republican Party directly addresses issues raised by the Tea Party, no such dialogue exists between the Occupy movement and the Democratic Party.

"Democratic Party rhetoric is they want to reform Wall Street. Occupy Wall Street rhetoric is to reform Wall Street. But they aren't talking to each other," said Fabio Rojas, associate professor in the Department of Sociology at Indiana University, describing the chasm between the two entities as a "big gaping hole."

It is unusual to hear Democratic leaders mention the Occupy movement, said Rojas, an expert in political organizations. The Tea Party, which he describes as a revolt within the Republican Party, represents a base of voters for socially conservative Republican presidential candidates -- and former candidates such as Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann -- to court.

The "former" status of Bachmann and Perry's candidacies represents an interesting twist for the Tea Party, which helped numerous conservative congressmen win office in 2010.

"The big news for the Tea Party is they're trailing in the primary," said Rojas, who describes Mitt Romney, a leading candidate in the Republican race, as the antithesis to Tea Party ideals.

Rojas can be reached at 812-856-1491 or The Department of Sociology is in the College of Arts and Sciences. Top

High number of national political debates might contribute to decreased voter turnout.

With only nine Republican presidential primaries completed, the public has already been exposed to an overwhelming amount of information about and attacks on the candidates. Much of this information overload has come from the high number of national debates televised before every state's election day, providing sound bites that are used in mainstream coverage of the race. Brian Vargus, professor of political science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, says these debates may contribute to the decrease in voter turnout seen in this election cycle.

  • With the exception of the base, most Americans are bored by debates. "Research shows that even in presidential debates, only the 'really' interested, strong partisans tune in," Vargus said. He said that even in a historic and enthusiastic political environment like the presidential campaigns of 2008, the televised debates still had fewer viewers than the popular television program "American Idol."
  • Debates are blown out of proportion. "These debates, and the candidates who participate in them, have become caricatures of themselves," Vargus said. Because thought-out discourse between candidates has become the exception to debate etiquette, the vulgar and uninformative nature of the debates is naturally unappealing to voters. The competitive angle of the debates is culminated by the agonizing arguments of pundits who bicker about "who won."
  • Super Tuesday will decide the 2012 nomination. Vargus predicts that the March 6 primary election in 10 states will be the deciding day in delegate distribution for the Republican nomination. He said that Mitt Romney victories in Ohio and the South would solidify his position as the party's candidate. "It is a long way to the election, but what has happened to this point tells us little except many Republicans do not like their choices and are already looking to 2016."

Vargus can be reached at 317-274-7226 or Top

For additional assistance with these items, contact Steve Hinnefeld at 812-856-3488 or, Tracy James at 812-855-0084 or, or Kristen Ditsch at 812-855-3911 or