What about the presidential candidates? On that topic he was as decisive as he was about welfare. “None of the politicians are speaking to me,” he said. “They should get rid of all of them and start from scratch. They’re all crooks. They waste my money. There’s no management. Social Security is mismanaged. The whole government is mismanaged.” Who will he vote for? “I am definitely not voting for Obama because of the fiscal crisis,” he said, somewhat defiantly. “I think almost anybody is better than him.” I asked David to sum up in a word how he felt about contemporary politics. “Frustrated,” he said.

Linda

But Linda, a 66-year-old sales clerk at a furniture store, will vote for Obama, although she is not totally sold on the president. “Mr. Romney has no idea of what it is like to be me. I don’t think Mr. Romney knows how to put food on the table and gasoline in the car,” she said. “Mr. Obama speaks more to my concerns—but not all of them.” The economy, Linda said, was key. “We need to put people back to work. That’s the bottom line.”

She had some advice for us journalists covering the candidates: “Get them to speak to us in plain language,” Linda advised. “Speak to the peoples’ concerns. Talk to us on our level and make us understand, and maybe that would help us make a decision about how to vote.”

Trudy Lieberman is a fellow at the Center for Advancing Health and a longtime contributing editor to the Columbia Journalism Review. She is the lead writer for The Second Opinion, CJR’s healthcare desk, which is part of our United States Project on the coverage of politics and policy. Follow her on Twitter @Trudy_Lieberman.