Jul 062010
Authors: Ian Bezek

Democrats across Northern Colorado have an extra reason to have Ram pride during the upcoming football season.

A study released Tuesday found that the performance of local sports teams had a measurable impact on elections. The study specifically looked at college football teams and found that when the local team succeeds, so does the local incumbent politician.

Explaining this odd finding, researchers said that, “Events that government had nothing to do with, but that affect voters’ sense of well-being, can affect the decisions that they make on Election Day.”
The study looked at elections going back to 1964 for president, governor and the senate and analyzed them along with the performance of 62 “major” college teams, (they didn’t specify whether the Rams were included).

When local teams had success before the election, the local candidate got a boost of more than 1 percent in the outcome of the election. In some cases with so-called powerhouse schools, football success lead to much greater electoral gains.

The researchers went on to rightly conclude that voters must be irrational to a significant degree if the outcome of football games impacts elections.

It’s no secret that voters are often irrational, in many cases voters vote against policies and leaders they actually want because they don’t understand the election or have been confused by negative advertising.
But this is a new level of irrationality. Here it appears that voters are making decisions about our government based on their mood. If the football team wins, then voters are happy and they keep the incumbent. If voters are angry at that bum-of-a-football coach, they cast their rage at the one place they can: the ballot box.

Perhaps the problem isn’t so much that voters vote irrationally, but rather that they vote senselessly. Voting is viewed in such low regard in this country that perhaps voters really don’t care and just fill their ballots in randomly.

Which candidate has the better hair? Who has the better sounding last name? Which candidate’s signs are more aesthetically pleasing? Is the local football team winning? These are the sorts of questions that, I fear, are determining the outcome of our elections.

In South Carolina, the unemployed and involuntarily-discharged from the military Alvin Greene beat a four-term state representative in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Also, Greene is facing felony obscenity charges and he failed to hire a campaign manager or attend any Democratic Party functions before the primary.

How does an unknown unemployed guy facing felony charges beat a respected former state legislator for a primary to serve in the U.S. Senate? Greene pulled it off because voters frankly just didn’t care.
The leading theories explaining Greene’s decisive victory (he captured 59 percent of the vote) suggest that he won because of two possible reasons. One, his last name had a traditional African-American spelling and the minority voters in South Carolina wanted to elect a black guy. Or two, his name appeared first on the ballot.

You have to wonder about the state of our democracy when voters are basing their decisions on their mood, the position of people’s names on the ballot and so on. Are we, as Americans, worthy of the right to vote when we squander it so frequently?

I’m particularly troubled by the push in states such as Colorado for more direct democracy. The idea that we should get to directly change the Constitution when we are voting in a seemingly random fashion is disturbing.

Did the Tax Payer’s Bill of Rights, TABOR, pass because the Broncos were having a bad season? Did Referendum I, which would have extended gay rights in Colorado, fail in a close election because conservative Colorado Springs voters were upset that the Air Force Academy Falcons football team was stinking it up?

With close upcoming elections across Colorado, the Rams, along with other Colorado teams, could have a big influence on the elections. Democrats may need the Rams, Broncos and others to have a strong season to hold onto the governorship and Sen. Michael Bennet’s seat.

One thing is certain: Congresswoman Betsy Markey should attend all of the Rams’ games this fall. She needs all the luck she can get to defeat Cory Gardner’s challenge for her seat.
As for me, I’ll still be cheering for the Rams regardless of the political fallout.

Ian Bezek is a senior economics major. His column will appear periodically throughout the summer. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com

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