From an empirical perspective, however, a solid argument can made that only a rough half of voters on any election vote in favor of something/someone, while the other half vote 'against'. That's enough to fuel the argument that majority rule sucks unwashed goats, yet also shines an interesting light on last night's election results.
Card-carrying members are taken for granted.
Just as with any other brand-pushing PR effort, more resources during a presidential campaign are devoted to bring in new supporters than to comfort the existing userbase, which naturally tends to reinforce itself when their beliefs are challenged.
Thus, campaign strategists go first and foremost for those undecided or uninvolved, and seek the fastest and cheapest way to bring them into the fold.
Why, oh why the hatred ?
A simple fact of a majority rule election is that it's really difficult to groom your own pony (no matter how good he/she may be) to look like a prize stallion in any possible voter's eyes.
Meanwhile, it's a reasonably trivial task to throw each and every accusation of awfulness you can muster (no matter how fictitious or far-fatched) in the general direction of the opposition and hope a little something will stick for everybody watching.
Ensuring a voice doesn't go to the other guy may not look as good as securing a vote for your own candidate, but it's at least half as beneficial when it comes down to the scoreboard: the worst that can happen is the voter is turned off badly enough by all parties that he/she simply doesn't vote at all, which is certainly better than him/her voting for the 'enemy'.
The more polarized the election, the stronger the case for this approach: when the game boils down to a duel, there's almost no apparent downside to smear tactics, since they can't result in outsider victories or kingmaker configurations.
With this strategy as the default line of any strongly personalized campaign, one could expect the proportion of 'anti' voters to exceed that of 'pro' voters, but my guess is it's closer to a 50/50 split, as strongly polarized contests naturally tend to reinforce and freeze people in their preexisting biases, thus leading the 'positive' potential voters to opt in earlier and harder in favor of their candidate (than they would in a less intense election) which makes them largely impervious to the influence of smear tactics — either way.
Whether the final score is 50.1% vs 49.9% or 65% vs 35%, it is sensible to assume about half the votes on each side of the fence are cast in genuine support of their party's candidate/proposal, while the remaining half merely try to prevent a catastrophe by endorsing whichever candidate seems more likely to beat the one they don't want to see win the race.
[Caveat: This rule of thumb holds only within some limits of the scoreboard, however: the more extreme the final majority (from 70-30 up to 100-0), the higher the proportion of voters are likely to have cast a 'con' rather than 'pro' vote, and the more likely for the ballot result to simply mean: "This selection of choices is fubar, let's get the most scary stuff out of the way and run another, more sensible election, please ?"
This can be explained by an outlandish situation turning usually moderate people into temporary hardliners against the election configuration itself, rather than split over the choices divide.]
Speculating, one far-fetched idea at a time.
Obviously I have nothing to back this up to a reasonable certainty, my guesstimate roots in what I could gather over time from polls and talks over drinks with people of various political orientations (yeah, whoever they are for you, you can safely bet I'm all pally with your personal bad guys), but what I got from this thoroughly unscientific probing is nonetheless interesting.
Regardless of where the voters are on the political compass, or how polarized and ferociously fought the election is, each individual voter is just as likely to be motivated by genuine enthusiasm for "his" guy as he's to be only driven by a will to take down the opposition.
To clarify, the core values of one's personal political church are largely irrelevant to the proportion of 'positive' vs 'negative' voters in a group: obviously the farther out from the center one sits on the political spectrum, the more likely he/she is to be driven by hatred/fear of some 00ber ebil, be it soulless commies, vulture capitalists, christians, jews, muslims, atheists, fags, negroes, yni., and the main reason for people to niche into some extremist-yet-clearcut enclave is usually they're scared witless…
But that's not the nail I'm trying to hit here: extremist values certainly run on a hate/fear fuel mix, yet hardliners of any political group still can be separated between those who mainly idolize their leaders/candidates and those who mostly hate the guts of some specific political enemy/target/scapegoat, and when you take a bit of time to listen to them, both categories draw about equal numbers in the group.
So what ?
Well, by looking at this map, and in light of the 50/50 pro/con breakdown rule'o'thumb described above (assuming my hypothesis is of any merit), the spectacular victories achieved by either ticket in most states are telling a different story altogether.
The ballot scores on this presidential election sit in a 55-45 to 65-35 bracket, both in blue and red states, with few exceptions.
Using the 50/50 pro/con RoT, we can read about 30% of the voters in red states were strongly hostile to the Obama/Biden ticket, 30% were really favorable to the McCain/Palin ticket, while 20% of the voters were totally in the tank for Hopey/Joe-not-a-plumber, and another 20% hated McCain/Palin's collective guts.
Perfect symmetry in blue states, I'll spare electrons by not typing it.
Why half of the voters in each camp, boiling down to half of the total of voters would hate/fear the opposing ticket is left as an exercise for the reader, as the reasons are both plentiful and uncanny (for some at least), but one interpretation of the picture is that about 50% of the registered voters in any state each hate/fear the winning or losing ticket, and by extension, 40 to 60 percent of their fellow statemates.
On a national scale, the popular votes scores 52-46 at this writing , and it's a simple matter to extrapolate: 26% of the citizenry is ravished by Obama (hard to tell about Biden), and 23% just freak out about the idea of a commie-muslim-terroriss' nigger in the Oval Office, and plain want him dead.
Which could mean a healthy 49% sighed in collective relief (including John McCain) at the thought of Palin as president being no threat 'naymore — at least for now.
And yeah, because we're ugly cynics, we started a new betting pool on how long for some wacko to put a bullet in Hopey — predictions to be expressed in fractional values of a JFK term, obviously.
Enjoy the postponement of WW3, I know I do.