Forget About Undecided Voters

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Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a freelance journalist and blogger. He considers Bob Dylan and Walter Sobchak to be the two great Jewish thinkers of our time; he thinks Kafka was half-right when he said there was hope, "but not for us"; and he can be reached through the twitter via @eliasisquith or via email. The opinions he expresses on the blog and throughout the interwebs are exclusively his own.

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54 Responses

  1. Avatar Jeff says:

    Once again, you leave out the media and its role in deciding winners and losers.  If we had decent news reporting here, the Party of Stupid or Evil would be as finished as they deserve to be.  Instead, we get False Equivalency and other rot.

    What I’d give for an Edward R Morrow or Walter Cronkite right now!Report

  2. Avatar Kimmi says:

    There’s another type of voter, fwiw. Not the “values” voter but the character voter.

    I was talking with one of them in 2008…

    Thought Obama or Romney was worth a vote,

    but Hillary and McCain made her skin crawl.

     

    I do think some people are rather idiosyncratic — and that a good deal of the “actual moderates” are “swingable” in an election, if swung right. Black conservative Dems are a classic “swing vote” — if a republican could ever grab enough cred. Likewise, NE Republicans have swung HARD for the Democrats in recent years…Report

  3. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    If a week is a long time in Washington, my models give the average voter about two months of visible window (seven weeks in my models) into their voting decision.   Jay Cost has his head up his ass:  the reason we don’t see any larger swings than we do is because gerrymandering has reduced the contest to a few swing states like Ohio.   This trend will continue until the sun burns down to a cinder.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Gerrymandering wouldn’t affect presidential results in the slightest–state lines haven’t changed much lately.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Are you trying to say the Winner Take All system isn’t a classic gerrymander?  Only swing states get any attention, where the margin of difference is small enough to warrant that attention.   Then we get to Bush v Gore where a handful of votes gives Florida to Bush.   Good grief.Report

        • Avatar dexter in reply to BlaiseP says:

          I don’t think it was a handful of votes that gave Florida to Bush.  I believe that it was a five to four vote that gave America the Bush years.

          I would love for the US to go to a general election and the person with the most votes gets elected.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to dexter says:

            That Bush v. Gore had to go to SCOTUS speaks to just how inane this process has become.   Whether you’re a Bush or Gore fan, nobody walks out of a good court case happy.

             Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

              The GOP FLA legislature was constitutionally empowered to throw the electoral votes to Bush,  which they would have done.  The Supreme Court simply cut to the chase, because the nation [and the world] was in an unprecedented interregnum.

              I love that word, interregnum. It refers to the time in between kings, and there has been much bloodshed during those moments of uncertainty for the future of the realm.

              Argued December 11, 2000
              Decided December 12, 2000

              We’d already been a month with no president-elect, and with no end to the haggling in sight.  The various proceedings in FLA were more a joke than anything, and were not closing in on a solution, since the FL legislature held the trump card anyway.

              Me, I love the Electoral College.  Even though my vote don’t mean squat here in California, I’m more glad the amount of damage California voters can do to our nation is limited by it.Report

              • You’ve got a fair point, there Tom, but I think it would have been a better idea to let it play out.

                Even though my vote don’t mean squat here in California

                Everybody’s vote means squat here in California.  The state is so predictable it’s nuts.  Even when it’s not predictable, it’s always a weird landslide.  I’m still amused at the high speed rail vote.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                That’s not a terribly democratic sentiment.   I want your vote to count.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Hey, I voted for Jerry Brown last time, Blaise.  Deck chairs on the Titanic.  But what the hell.

                Keep in mind I’m a republican.  Small “r” for “republic” because I share the same fear of mobs and their “democracy” as did the Founders and all the other sane men of human history.

                Aye, PatC, the high speed rail vote, billions of dollars to get from nowhere to nowhere fast.  Thank God our madness is limited to only 55 electoral votes.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Point taken, I suppose.   I’m a small r republican, too.  Res publica, the affairs of the people.  I want our leadership to be elected to lead, without the madness of a parliament, shifting coalitions of fractious minorities leading to unwise decisions.

                I fear mobs, too.   Lots of people sneer at mobs, underestimate their power to destroy much that is good.

                High speed rail?   China built several big lines with Japanese help.  The Beijing-Shanghai run is hardly a nowhere to nowhere run, nor are the California high speed rail destinations.   Here’s the problem as I see it:  when people like us think about travel, we instinctively hit Kayak or some other such site, see if we can get some package deal, flight, rental car, hotel combo.   But just a few years ago, it was call the travel agent a few times, expect calls back…. look, everything changed.  In my lifetime, people used to wear a suit to get on an aircraft.  It was a very big deal.

                People just need time to get used to the idea of high speed rail in the USA.   In Japan, yes, there are domestic flights but most people just take the Shinkansen.   All this fearmongering about high speed rail is so much bullshit from the Chicken Littles over at Cato Institute.   Nobody seems to complain about the infrastructure costs of the Interstate Highway System.   The Spanish have built high speed rail, they’re profitable.  The Russians did, they’re now in the black.   Deutsche Bahn is in the black.  SNCF in France is in the black.

                The key is to get the financing right.  With such large up-front capital requirements, there’s always trouble in those contracts.  China’s hugely corrupt.  California’s up to its eyeballs in debt because it’s run by a collection of fiscal maniacs.   Practically speaking,  California is essentially its own country but it’s never behaved like one.   California’s madness isn’t limited to its 55 electoral votes.   That state has had its head so far up its ass it’s starting to look like those fish and amphibians in the deep caves, their eyes have atrophied to little spots, no longer needed in the stinky darkness of their own patoots.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi in reply to BlaiseP says:

                TIME? Blaize, people need to get over being JEALOUS. Then, and only then, can we have rails.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I want our leadership to be elected to lead, without the madness of a parliament, shifting coalitions of fractious minorities leading to unwise decisions.

                I fear mobs, too.   Lots of people sneer at mobs, underestimate their power to destroy much that is good.

                As a small r republican, wish I’d put it as well, Blaise.  Sums up my political philosophy, leaving “policy” up to Your Mileage May Vary and good faith discussion and debate.

                My meta- is that if we as a nation and a people have a consensus on something, so be it.  And that even includes ObamaCare.  The left has been at this since at least Harry Truman, and the entire Western world has already succumbed to it.  I think it sucks and I think results in tyranny and bankruptcy, but I’m a good citizen.  If this is what we choose to do with our national greatness, then that’s what we chose.

                To be a “loyal opposition” requires loyalty, eh?  I think we forget that.  Opposition is cheap, loyalty the rarest of things in my experience.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Here’s the deal with these big-ticket items:  to make informed decisions we need — surprise, surprise — information.   Obamacare was largely based on information in Massachusetts.   Turns out it’s not working exactly as planned, well, yeah, that’s what plans are all about, to give us some guidance when implementation’s over and the QC begins.   I’m guided by a strategy which long predates these RUP project management schemes:   start with the data, populate a meaningful dataset, build up a controller, instrument everything — start to optimise the queries, get things stable.  Then and only then should anyone start in building the front end.

                And that’s where Obamacare went off the rails.   Had he gone ahead with a payer gateway scheme, leaving everything else intact, not exactly single payer but something resembling a check clearing operation, the insurance companies wouldn’t like it but I’ll bet he could have gotten that through even a GOP-dominated Congress.   He would have cynically argued:  “This is about patients and physicians and hospitals and nursing homes, so we can get a picture of just how big this problem really is.   You Republicans are always talking about how much you hate these social welfare programs, well, here’s your chance to argue from the data.   We’ll start with Medicare and Medicaid, get those claims straightened out, get them paid up and suchlike.   Market oriented reforms start with real data.   Let’s get that much done.  Heaven knows, you might actually have a point here.”

                That’s not what happened.   The insurance industry went apeshit.   They had enough power, they used it to balk single payer and now we’re stuck with well-meaning people like you, God knows you’re not an idiot,  we’re both down on tyranny and bankruptcy, but for godsakes, tyranny thrives in a deficit of information.   That’s the signature of tyranny, that it seeks to control the big picture by keeping all the data to itself.Report

              • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Where I was going to say I’m grateful the EC limits the damage that can be done by South Carolina.Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                Lack of a president-elect doesn’t make things an interregnum. Clinton was president on December 10, and on December 13, and all the days in between, and in fact continued to be president until Bush was sworn in in January. If there was no way the court could have done anything but an ad-hoc decision to stave off an urgent crisis, they could have at least waited until the crisis was actually urgent.

                The problem is not the electoral college per se, though it has it’s critics. It’s that the electoral votes of a state are awarded on a winner take all basis. If electoral votes were awarded proportionally, then there’s no crisis over a couple hundred votes deciding the whole of Florida; a close election in a given state means a close split of the votes. As an added bonus, it means that there is a point in voting for the President in California, since even if there’s a solid majority for the Democrats, your vote can help throw a few electors to the Republicans (or a third party candidate, which is why this will never actually happen, it’s against the interests of the two parties).Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Fnord says:

                Mr. Fnord, I’m not a democrat.  I’m a republican.  Small r and d.  I like the geographical consensus of states and regions of our huge country, that flyover country isn’t ruled by the coasts, or vice versa.

                And yes, strictly speaking 2000 wasn’t an interregnum, and at some point before Inauguration Day Florida’s legislature would have intervened.  It was constitutionally empowered to award the electoral votes to Dubya, which it would have—leaving Dubya to scramble to put an administration in place.  My primary point was that all Gore v Bush did is cut to the chase, a much-overlooked fact.  Dubya was going to be president regardless of the Supreme Court’s ruling [especially since the Court, by a 7-2 vote, had overruled the Florida Supreme Court’s ordering a statewide recount].Report

              • Avatar Fnord in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                 I like the geographical consensus of states and regions of our huge country, that flyover country isn’t ruled by the coasts, or vice versa.

                Which proportional apportionment of electors would still provide. Not that such a result is likely, given the fact that, despite the illusion that winner-take-all creates of statewide ideology, there’s plenty of agreement between people on the coasts and in flyover country. Only a handful of states went one way or another by even a 2/3s majority, either in 2000, 2004, or 2008.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Fnord says:

                +1 about the false image of statewide unity.Report

              • Avatar scott in reply to Tom Van Dyke says:

                It’s not up to the Supreme Court to cut out the small-d democratic processes in order to cut to the chase for convenience or for the sake of our impatience or small attention span, and doing it with risible legal analysis that they couldn’t defend and explicitly limited for that reason to one case.  If nothing else, if we were going to have an explicitly political decision, it would have been better for an explicitly political branch of state government to make it and have to defend it politically, instead of having the Supreme Court put a useful legal fig leaf on it.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to scott says:

                Scott, that criticism of Gore v. Bush is valid.  Pierre, Inauguration Day was in March not January in 1824 and 1876, pre- the 20th Amendment.

                That the Supreme Court hit the panic button in agreeing to hear Gore v. Bush in the first place is a legit criticism, instead of letting it play out as a political solution per the constitution, as it did in 1824 and 1876.

                Me, I think they just cut to the chase, for reasons given above:  The fix was in, the FLA legislature was going to award the electoral votes to Bush, Dubya was going to be president regardless.

                Should the Supreme Court have laid out?  It’s a valid objection.  But sometimes the melodrama is so numbing and the ending so predictable that you can’t help but hit Fast Forward.Report

              • Tom,

                I’ll need to brush up on my history, but my understanding was that at least in 1876-1877, they were getting very close to inauguration day.  Alas, this historian is too lazy to look it up.Report

              • The Supreme Court simply cut to the chase, because the nation [and the world] was in an unprecedented interregnum.

                Tom, not sure how relevant this is to the overall point you’re making, but it was not unprecedented:  think of the elections of 1824 and 1876.Report

      • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Gerrymandering isn’t the reason, but BlaiseP’s point still holds: the contest will depend on a handful of swing states.  In the last 3 elections, all but 10 states have supported the same party every time.

        So it won’t be about which party better mobilizes its base in general nationally, but which party enthuses its base in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Scott Fields says:

          Well, maybe gerrymander isn’t the word I’m looking for.   I can’t find a better one.  How do we describe this problem, what word could we use for this syndrome where we can alwaysalwaysalways count on Illinois to go Democratic even though a surprisingly large percentage of the people in that state are Republicans?

          Winner Takes All is a stupid and fundamentally undemocratic route to election. Report

          • Avatar Scott Fields in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Winner Takes All is a stupid and fundamentally undemocratic route to election.

            No argument from me there – the Electoral College system is seriously busted.

            OTOH, living in fait accompli California (as I do), I’ll be spared the worst of the coming deluge of sludge that is SuperPAC campaign advertising that is certain to swamp the poor denizens of the swing states. Were I an Ohioan, I’d be unhooking my TV for the next 6 months.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Dan Miller says:

        Dan is correct, and nothing about winner-take-all, the system that’s been in place in nearly all states almost forever, changes the fact that we haven’t gerrymandered the states.  In fact if anything some formerly certain states have become more swingable, such as Colorado and Virginia, due to population growth that isn’t partisanly uniform.Report

  4.  

    I think the “go with the winner” vote is a strong argument, Elias, although I bet difficult to quantify—the GWTW voter might not realize that’s what he’s doing.

    It means that a candidate who has got his side really fired up and enthusiastic, á la Barack Obama in 2008, stands a good chance to reap the benefit of having undecideds break his way — especially if his opponent’s partisans are somewhat or significantly ambivalent (again,á la 2008 John McCain).

    Makes sense. Four years later, GOP talk radio is still hatin’ on McCain, I mean there’s not a good word out there anywhere for him.

    BTW, did Jimmy Carter get his ass kicked or what?

    NomineeRonald ReaganJimmy CarterJohn B. Anderson
    PartyRepublicanDemocraticIndependent
    Home stateCaliforniaGeorgiaIllinois
    Running mateGeorge H. W. BushWalter MondalePatrick Lucey
    Electoral vote489490
    States carried446 + DC0
    Popular vote43,903,23035,480,1155,719,850
    Percentage50.7%41.0%6.6%

    BTW, Reagan trailed most of the way, the polls were off bigtime, and 1 voter in 7 did voted differently than he did in the final pre-election poll.  So much for crystal balls, even the scientific kind.

    http://www.amstat.org/sections/srms/proceedings/papers/1981_011.pdf

    Time Rag Mag, March 1980

    National opinion polls continue to show Carter leading Reagan by an apparently comfortable margin of about 25%. They also show that more moderate Republicans like Ford would run better against the President. This suggests that Reagan is not the strongest G.O.P. choice for the November election and that he clearly faces an uphill battle. . .

    Carter, for all his problems, has the power of incumbency. As President, he can react to challenges by changing the direction of the whole Government, which he has done recently by attempting to balance the budget in the coming fiscal year, a course urged by all Republican candidates. Carter is an undeniably deft—and extremely lucky—politician. He also is a relatively known quantity in the White House, whereas the inexperienced Reagan would require a definite leap of faith by voters supporting him. Says Northwestern University Political Scientist Louis Masotti: “There’s a variation on the old cliché: you don’t change horses’ asses in midstream. You’ve got one, and at least you know its contours.”Report

  5. Good point, Pat.  “As late as June, 1980, Carter was still polling ahead of Reagan by 6-7% in trial heats. ”

    See also http://www.amstat.org/sections/SRMS/proceedings/papers/1981_011.pdf for some tall weeds.  Carter was ahead in some polls in October.Report

    • I need to look at that paper more this weekend.

      It’s certainly true that polling methods have limitations – and it’s particularly true that historical polls had limitations that the good pollsters have tried to compensate for as time has gone on (see Gallup, 1948 election).Report

  6. Avatar Damon says:

    “Go with the winner” = herd mentality.  Never underestimate the stupidity of the human animal, especially in groups.  I’m sure this has a big influence in the undecided.  I’ll concurr with Jeff too on the influence of the media, at least the “mainstream” media.

    I used to be a “character voter”.  Newt never would have gotten my vote, neither would Romney, nor Santorum, nor BOB, nor Clinton, nor Bush.  I stopped paying attention to character when I realized that all politicians, with one or two exceptions, are sleezeballs unworthy of my support.

     Report

    • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Damon says:

      There’s plenty of folks who aren’t sleezeballs (not to say they aren’t blackmailed…). Many, many more that are sleezeballs, mind, but there are enough honest folks that go to washington — still, it takes an asshole to make president in this day and age (last one that wasn’t was Carter)Report

      • Avatar Damon in reply to Kimmi says:

        “There’s plenty of folks who aren’t sleezeballs GOING IN (not to say they aren’t blackmailed…). Many, many more that are sleezeballs, mind, but there are enough honest folks that go to washington..”

        Fixed that for ya.  🙂  You can have all the good intentions and desire but the system fundamentally is set up to corrupt you.  Nearly everyone caves.  Those that don’t are marginalized and become useless. 

         Report

        • Avatar Kimmi in reply to Damon says:

          marginalization is a fact of life for most people in the Senate or house. How do you thinkt hese people get corrupted, out of curiosity? Sanders has been there awhile — and nobody’s gonna call Coburn corrupted, even if he is an asshole.Report

  7. but I think there’s another piece: they tend to go with the side they think is winning.

    I realize you’re making this statement tentatively, with an all you can eat salt bar,* but there might be a few other things at play in addition to the preference for voting for the winner. Spite is one of them.  I can imagine a certain type of “independent” voter who wants to vote for the person who doesn’t really have a chance of winning just because that person doesn’t have a chance of winning.  Another version of spite:  the voter doesn’t like the type of people he or she assumes supports the person likely to win.

     

    *Is this a cliche, a mixed metaphor, or both?….YOU decide!Report

    • Avatar karl in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      If spite voting really exists it probably diminishes the higher up the political food chain you go.  I’ve never encountered anyone claiming to base a presidential vote on (what I considered) spite… except in 2008 (surprise).  Those few exceptions were definitely low-information voters, yet somehow spite didn’t seem to matter so much in the 1990s and 2000s.

      The only time I’ve seen an election turn on spite was the MLK holiday vote here in Arizona back in 1990.  Of course, there are no ties between a state referendum and a presidential election 18 years part.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to karl says:

        Karl,

        The only evidence I have is anecdotal, friends, acquaintances, and myself.  I’m curious, by “the higher up the political food chain you go,” I assume you mean, “the higher the office you vote for.”  My inclination–again, based only on anecdote–is that the higher the office–say senator, governor, or president–the more likely one would be to vote out of spite because one’s vote is less likely to have an effect in an election.

        In an aldermanic election where fewer than a thousand people vote, I imagine one might plausibly be more concerned with competence than with spite.  On the other hand, I can certainly see how at the more local levels, one might have personal spite even if one generally would approve of the job that the local officer does.

        Other than listing examples, most of which are probably disputable in themselves, I cannot think of a way to demonstrate that people vote out of spite.  I doubt most people would admit to it, and they might have a different definition of spite than yours or mine.  I can outline the times I have voted out of what I consider spite….but that’s just one example and, again, dependent on my definition.

        In other words, you might be right.Report

      • Avatar Pierre Corneille in reply to karl says:

        I think I should elaborate a bit on what I mean by spite.  Not just spite about the candidate–not liking him or her–but also spite about the candidate’s supporters, or the type of people who allegedly support the candidate.  I remember in 1992 or early 1993–certainly after the election in November–Ted Koppel interviewed a white man in a bar in DC about the upcoming inauguration, and the guy said he didn’t like Clinton because he [Clinton] was “too much for the blacks.” [probably a paraphrase….I haven’t a cite.]  One construction we can put on this statement is that the guy didn’t like Clinton because he believed black people supported him.  (Another construction, not precluded by the first, is that this guy was a racist, pure and simple.)

        I can remember in Colorado in 1992, I supported the anti-gay rights amendment–Amendment 2–in part because I viewed the opponents as self-righteous, intolerant  hacks.  Of course, I was also homophobic, but part of my vote (if I had voted….I didn’t vote in that election) would have been based on my antipathy toward the people who wore the “No on 2!” buttons, and not on my support for the measure.

        (I should say that now, I have reversed course:  I was wrong–grievously wrong–to support Amendment 2, and I’m glad the Supreme Court struck it down.  I only hope that I’m more accepting now than I then was and that I would have the courage to stand up for my beliefs if called to.)Report

    • Avatar karl in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      Don’t know if that’s a mixed metaphor or not — it sounds more like like foodie heaven to me.Report

  8. Undecided voters brealk for the challenger 80% of the time. Kerry won at least 75% of the late undecided vote.

    http://www.richardcharnin.com/WhenDecided.htm

    One month prior to the 2004 election, state and national pre-election polls indicated that the race was a virtual tie. But according to the Final National Exit Poll “When Decided” category, Bush won the vote of those who decided one month before the election by 53-46% and was a 51.2-47.5% overall winner. On the other hand, the 12:22am NEP showed a virtual 50-50 tie among those who decided one month before – and Kerry led by 51.2-47.9%. No surprise there. After all, just like all other demographic categories, Final NEP weights and vote shares were adjusted to force a match to the recorded vote.

    According to the Final NEP, Kerry won the 9% of voters who decided within 3 days of the election by 53-44% (or 55-45% of the two-party vote). The 12:22am update indicated it was 53-40% (57-43% two-party). Pollsters Zogby and Harris estimated that Kerry won 75% of the late undecided vote. Therefore his True Vote was probably better than the 51.2% indicated by the 12:22am NEP “When Decided” cross-tabs.

    In fact, the True Vote (Kerry 52.5-Bush 46.5%) was previously calculated. It was based on the “Voted 2000” category using adjusted, feasible weights applied to 12:22am NEP vote shares (the Final NEP Bush/Gore 43/37% “Voted 2000” weights were mathematically impossible). The adjusted Bush/Gore weights were the ratio of a) 95% turnout of Bush and Gore 2000 voters (assuming 3.5% mortality) to b) 2004 total votes cast. Therefore, the 12:22am NEP “When Decided” Kerry vote shares were increased (see the True Vote cross-tab).

    Science works by assuming that the explanation that best fits the data is correct – and is tested against new data, which either strengthens those assumptions or causes them to be rejected in favor of a better explanation. The Final Exit Poll “When Decided” weights and vote shares do not agree with historical polling statistics and the conclusions of two well-respected pollsters with a combined 70 years experience. Therefore, we must conclude that the 12:22am NEP is close to the True Vote. The Final NEP is once again exposed for forcing a match to a fraudulent recorded vote through the use of bogus weights and vote shares.

    This is what Zogby said a few days before the election:
    “The key reason why I still think that Kerry will win… traditionally, the undecideds break for the challenger against the incumbent on the basis of the fact, simply, that the voters already know the incumbent, and it’s a referendum on the incumbent. And if the incumbent is polling, generally, under 50 percent and leading by less than 10, historically, incumbents have lost 7 out of 10 times. In this instance you have a tie, a President who is not going over 48, undecideds who tell us by small percentages that the President deserves to be reelected. And in essence, it gives all the appearances that the undecideds — the most important people in the world today — have made up their minds about President Bush. The only question left is: Can they vote for John Kerry? If it’s a good turnout, look for a Kerry victory. If it’s a lower turnout, it means that the President has succeeded in raising questions about John Kerry’s fitness”.

    Note: Final Zogby Election Day polling had Kerry winning by 50-47%, with 311 electoral votes, indicating that 75% of undecided voters broke for Kerry. It was not a good turnout; it was a great turnout. Officially, 122 million voted in 2004, compared to 105m in 2000, a net increase of 17m. But a closer analysis indicates that there must have been close to 30 million new voters. Here’s why: Approximately five million 2000 voters died prior to 2004. Assuming 95% turnout, another five million did not vote, so only 95m former 2000 voters returned to the polls in 2004. In addition, approximately three million ballots in 2004 were uncounted (a total of 125m were cast). Preliminary National Exit Polls indicated that Kerry won 57-62% of new voters, or 6m more than Bush.

    Harris Interactive on Election Day:
    “The final Harris Polls show Senator John Kerry making modest gains at the very end of the campaign in an election that is still too close to call using telephone methods of polling. At the same time, the final Harris Internet-based poll suggests that Kerry will win the White House today in a narrow victory. Harris Interactive’s final online survey of 5,508 likely voters shows a three-point lead for Senator Kerry. The final Harris Interactive telephone survey of 1,509 likely voters shows a one-point lead for President Bush. Both surveys are based on interviews conducted between October 29, 2004 and November 1, 2004. The telephone survey is consistent with most of the other telephone polls, which show the race virtually tied.

    If this trend is real, then Kerry may actually do better than these numbers suggest. In the past, presidential challengers tend to do better against an incumbent President among the undecided voters during the last three days of the election, and that appears to be the case here. The reason: undecided voters are more often voters who dislike the President but do not know the challenger well enough to make a decision. When they decide, they frequently split 2:1 to 4:1 for the challenger.”

    This is what the Gallup poll said about undecided voters:
    “In the final USA TODAY/CNN/GALLUP poll before the election, President Bush held a 49-47 edge over Sen. John Kerry when the undecided voters were not allocated to a particular candidate. When Gallup, using a statistical model that assumes that 9 of 10 of those voters would support Kerry, allocated the voters, the poll ended as a dead heat with each candidate garnering 49%. The Gallup allocation formula is based on analyses of previous presidential races involving an incumbent”.

    Frank Newport, Editor in Chief of the Gallup Poll, answered questions about undecided voters and Bush approval on Election Day:

    Is the presidential race still too close to call?
    Yes. No matter how you look at the data, the two major-party candidates are neck and neck. Gallup’s final Oct. 29-31 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that if all registered voters actually turn out (which is not likely to happen, of course), John Kerry wins over George W. Bush by two points. Among likely voters, including our estimate of what the remaining undecided voters will do on Election Day, the race is dead even at 49% for each candidate.Report

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