According to the National Archives, approximately 131 million people voted in the presidential election in 2008. President Obama received an unprecedented 69.5 million which is the most popular votes of any president in history. Before the election in 2008, there were reportedly 10 percent of voters who were undecided. This year the margin is less with around 8 percent still undecided, according to polls.
In a New Yorker story last July, Elizabeth Kolbert’s research sheds some light on who the undecided in America are and why haven’t they decided.
The article quotes from a recent article in Newsweek. Please note that noted in Newsweek that when you factor out the undecideds in securely red or blue states (since their votes won’t change the Electoral College results), the election comes down to “around 4 percent of the voters in six states.”did the math! Former Clinton adviser Paul Begala recently
“I did the math so you won’t have to,” Begala continued. “Four percent of the presidential vote in Virginia, Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Mexico, and Colorado is 916,643 people. That’s it. The American president will be selected by fewer than half the number of people who paid to get into a Houston Astros home game last year.”
These figures are dramatic, and the swing states continue to be the focus for both parties. A study done by Vanderbilt University determined that the undecideds comprise 30 percent of independents, with 40 percent leaning Democratic and 20 percent leaning Republican. The overarching question is why have they not decided?
The same researchers at Vanderbilt suggest they are not politically astute. Bartels and Vavreck’s research suggests that this rap rests on a solid foundation. The undecideds, they write, “are rather less knowledgeable about politics, and much more likely to say they follow news and public affairs ‘only now and then’ or ‘hardly at all.’ (Almost 40 percent are unsure which party currently has more members in the House of Representatives, and another 20 percent wrongly answered that it was the Democrats.)”
These are the people who will be deciding the next president. If you want an up close and personal evaluation of the undecideds, watch the presidential debate on Oct. 16, 2012. The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues. Candidates each will have two minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town meeting participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization.
The undecideds even have their own website, but it has not been updated for a while. Still, it’s interesting to see how they think. One of the pollsters on their website from the 2004 election posits undecideds might not even vote. “If they can overcome their fears and objections to one candidate, they could tip the election. If they can't, this final fraction of a polarized electorate could go for a third candidate or stay home.
"The real issue is whether they'll vote. They ultimately may not vote," independent pollster John Zogby said after conducting focus groups for Knight Ridder with dozens of uncommitted voters in five swing states.”
The website states further that in 2004, 60 percent of the undecideds were women, according to a panel discussion with the then-president of Planned Parenthood Gloria Feldt. “Most urban women support (Sen. John) Kerry, while most rural women back (President) Bush. Suburban women are the toss up," said Lori Weigel, a partner with Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm.
“Pollsters said there is a tendency for married women to favor Republicans, but a marriage gap exists as well. Unmarried women give a 17-point advantage to Kerry, while married women give Bush a 6-point advantage," said Celinda Lake, president of Lake, Snell, Perry & Associates and a leading Democratic Party strategist.
This is what Todd Huffman was saying in 2004 on the undecided website, which is almost the same thing being said now. “ If pollsters are to be believed, the outcome of November's national election rests heavily in the hands of the merely 10 percent of Americans remaining undecided between the candidates. With just over four months until perhaps the most crucial election of our lifetimes, Democrats and progressives must make it imperative that these voters be reached.”
The news talk shows are having their own debates with the undecideds, and even after both party conventions, guess what? Most are still undecided! With this revelation, one is left with only one conclusion, whichput so aptly. “The fate of our country is now in the hands of people who don’t think about what they want until they get right up to the register at McDonald’s.”
If you like to write about U.S. politics and Campaign 2012, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.