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What shutdown? Local voters voice uncertainty about shutdown meaning

Even as the government balanced on the edge of shutdown and Congress’s looming deadline to agree on a federal spending bill approached, the average voter around Concord didn’t know about – and didn’t really have any patience for – tumult in Washington.

Instead, mostly uncertain glances and uneasy smiles met the phrase “government shutdown.”

“I don’t know anything about that, sorry.”

“State or federal?”

“I don’t know too much about it.”

Laura Ingram, 40, turned to Google yesterday morning to investigate the headlines and questions that were making her nervous about her own job at the State House as a purchaser.

“I saw the headlines,” she said. “It scared me a little.”

Ingram learned the federal shutdown wouldn’t directly affect her job as a state employee, but she’s still not quite sure what it would mean otherwise. And she’s not alone.

“The majority of the people I’ve talked to don’t know what’s going on,” Ingram said.

Those who did know what was going on, that as they spoke a Democratic-controlled Senate was locked in confrontation with House Republicans, wrote the conflict off as classic congressional tension.

Laura Richardson, who works for an energy nonprofit downtown, called it “juvenile.”

“They’re trying to force compromises, force decisions that need a lot more dialogue,” she said.

Melissa Levesque, an employee at the state laboratories on Hazen Road, had the day off work yesterday – and she was planning to spend her free time figuring out exactly what a shutdown would mean for her day-to-day life.

As she began to investigate, the news of a possible shutdown was frustrating, she said.

“I said, ‘Really, another one? When did this happen?’ ” she said.

Levesque, 25, said she didn’t feel many others would spend the time digging through legislative drama to understand the facts of the shutdown.

“I feel like the normal citizen doesn’t know what’s going on,” she said.

Voters need to understand this divide and the party politics that caused it, Levesque said. If not, even if an immediate shutdown could be avoided, this conflict will keep rearing its ugly head.

“It’s not good for the economy, for morale,” she said. “It’s not good for anybody.”

It’s not good for anybody, Ray Boelig of Gilford agreed, but for some, it could be “disastrous.”

“I don’t think anyone is going to feel the effect right away, other than the roughly 800,000 government employees who are going to be furloughed,” Boelig, 60, said.

Boelig said the divide in Congress is pushing the average voter away from wanting to know more, not drawing him or her into the conversation.

“I think people are so frustrated with government,” he said.

Like many others, Richard Wibel, 65, of Concord waved off the idea of the federal government shutting down many of its own agencies while its budget hangs in the balance.

“The logic of it is stupid,” he said.

He said he believed Congress would somehow resolve the spending bill before its deadline to avoid shutdown, but he also didn’t think his life would be affected if the federal government was running or not.

“We won’t know until tomorrow,” he said with a shrug.

In the meantime, Ingram said she would keep looking for answers to her questions about which “nonessential” employees would be furloughed in the event of a government shutdown, how that would change her life – and how it wouldn’t.

“I’m still not quite understanding,” she said. “It just seems like they can’t agree on anything.”

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

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Legacy Comments4

Please define "average" voter.I see no evidence that the writer has actually sampled & researched enough voters to determine what "the average" voter actually thinks. Perhaps the better phrase here would have been "randomly and unscientifically sampled?" I'm willing to read about random voters, but asserting that you've somehow determined what an average voter looks like, as well as what those average voters do and don't know, is a big stretch.

On re-reading this, I recognize the tone to be unnecessarily snippy. My apologies for the delivery - I could have worded this more nicely.

proof of the existence of the low information voter - maybe watching more episodes of John Stewart and American Idol will help them.

Of course there are low-information voters. The offense you commit is implying that they are all Democrats.

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