Tell me about a fictional peoples.
August 17, 2012 8:56 AM   Subscribe

Does there exist a demographic of humans currently living in the United States of America that are "on the fence" about who they will be voting for in the upcoming 2012 presidential elections? Additionally, I'd like some sort of description of these people.

I'm asking because it seems that, at this point, any one who cares and has put in a little amount of study in to the candidates would have already made up their mind, and, most likely, won't be changing it.
posted by coolxcool=rad to Law & Government (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A Google search for "undecided voters" will yield lots of information about them
posted by Wordwoman at 9:01 AM on August 17, 2012

Scalzi ran a comment request to this effect and my quick skim of it suggests that there aren't really a ton of people who are genuinely undecided. It's an interesting read, though.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:02 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think this election will hinge more on turning out the vote than on convincing the vote.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:05 AM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]

I concur with JohnnyGunn. Both campaigns have been fairly thin on specific policy proposals and their efforts appear largely aimed at getting their side out to the polls "so the other guys doesn't get elected".
posted by DWRoelands at 9:07 AM on August 17, 2012

This New Yorker article looks like a good overview, with links.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 9:07 AM on August 17, 2012

Yesterday the NY Times ran a story on just this idea.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:11 AM on August 17, 2012

I believe the NYT covered this yesterday.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:14 AM on August 17, 2012

I bet a bunch of them live in states that are the exact opposite of swing states, and are wondering whether to vote for Jill Stein or Gary Johnson or Virgil Goode or whatever.

Which is to say, if I lived in Utah or California I'd be a heck of a lot less decided than I am in Ohio. My friends in CA are in fact less decided than I am (especially the ones who run Libertarian; they haven't liked a Republican nominee in a long, long time, whereas the Greens and Socialists were often fairly OKish with Gore, and were generally afraid enough to hold their noses and vote Democrat.) Actually, I suspect a lot of people who say they're undecided could be swung by downticket races. Alas, I can't think of many that matter that much (I'm not even sure there are huge unexplained differences in the generic Congressional ballots) - this year is definitely a year about the Presidential ticket party identity stuff.

My relatives in Kentucky had huge problems with Clinton/Gore/Kerry/Obama and also with Bush/Dole/McCain; my guess is that a lot of them just won't vote (they were excited by or hated George W. Bush pretty much evenly, as a group.) Romney's campaign has a marginally better shot at them than Obama's does, but he'd be a lot better off if they liked someone in a congressional or senate or gubernatorial race (where they all say they vote Democratic-because-of-Reconstruction.)

I believe I have at least one relative in a swing state who's voting for Virgil Goode. He's just... kind of nuts when it comes to politics, honestly. He might write in that dude from the Rent Is Too High Party because it's funny.
posted by SMPA at 9:55 AM on August 17, 2012

Additionally, I'd like some sort of description of these people.

'Ignorant' might sound a little harsh here, but there are a lot of genuinely ignorant people who vote, and who will eventually choose based upon idiosyncratic and subjective criteria; while campaigns are aware of this, the political media, being invested in an alternative model of the 'painstakingly rational swing voter', tries to pretend this is not so. As Gail Collins wrote in 2008, the last weeks' messaging of a presidential campaign is messy because it's aimed at people who've managed to ignore the news for a year.

Here's a blog post on the neuroscience of the congenitally undecided back in 2008.
posted by holgate at 10:03 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have a friend who doesn't yet know to vote for. She says, "I have not yet done my research"—though to her credit she does intend to do so before November. She's a young smart person, big (fiction) reader, etc. She consumes most of her TV on the internet or on season DVDs and lives in a solid blue state.

I get the sense that knowing what's going on in politics, for her, is prioritized somewhere around the level that I prioritize knowing what's going on in the NFL. I don't consume the sort of media that concerns itself with professional football. I'm not friends with people who care about the sports—or at least don't talk about them with me very much. And generally I find it all kind of boring and irrelevant so I mostly tune out whenever someone in my vicinity does start talking about it. (So thank goodness nobody's asking me to vote on who should get the... big... important... football... trophy... thing.)

It's pretty easy to insulate yourself (or find yourself insulated) from boring stuff you don't care about in today's infotainment climate.

I don't know if my friend is typical, but she's an example.
posted by BrashTech at 10:24 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

I know a swing voter who has voted for both parties at various times in the past. He's a single issue voter, but his issue is US relations with Israel. He's said that this is not usually an issue that people campaign on, so there's room for differing opinions within the parties, which allows him to choose based on the individual candidate's position. I think he also said that he has skipped voting in presidential elections before because neither candidate really said what he wanted them to say on this issue.

(Disclaimer: I really know nothing about the issue myself so am just repeating what I remember of our conversation)
posted by marginaliana at 10:39 AM on August 17, 2012

Colin Powell was a swing voter in 2008 - two weeks before the election. They come in all types.
posted by mdn at 10:48 AM on August 17, 2012

According to npr (who've done a few stories on it lately): Asians. Socially liberal, financially conservative, they could go either way, or cancel each other out, but apparently both campaigns are trying to court them...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:20 AM on August 17, 2012

The difficulty being that "Asians" come from a background of most of the earths population and are therefore sort of hard to categorize/pigeonhole/package a campaign message for...
posted by sexyrobot at 11:23 AM on August 17, 2012

A lot of the socially liberal, financially conservative people I know are just horrified at Ryan. They look at him as a crass pandering to the lowest common denominator, kind if a Palin for the I Got Mine crowd. And my parents Catholic friends just hate him. Hate. He's regarded as the worst kind of religious hypocrite by them. They might have voted Republican solely on the abortion issue but you couldn't pay them to vote for Ryan. So they're all a bit undecided at the moment, although the decision is likely whether to vote at all.
posted by fshgrl at 12:30 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are possibly many people who consider abortion a crime, and cannot support gay marriage. The perceived hedonism of the current Democratic party culture is a turnoff.
However, the arrogant dismissal of social support, the insidious name calling, the obligations to corporations, and the rampant greed of the Republican party are also unattractive.
If these people vote at all, they will for the 'lesser evil'.
posted by Cranberry at 1:10 PM on August 17, 2012

I am currently undecided. What do people like me look like politically, intellectually, philosophically? Constitutional republican ( I don't care if states enact the most socially liberal or conservative legislation since its generally their domain under the constitution and the feds should stay out of it), fiscal conservative, intellectually gifted, christian (protestant). I agree with less than 20% of the Obama positions but as a Christian I can't see myself voting for Romney over Obama when Obama is a Christian and Romney isn't. On the other hand even with Ryan (totally NOT a constitutional or fiscal conservative since he voted for TARP for auto bailouts for NCLB,etc) on his ticket, Romney's fiscal policies are much more in line with mine. At this point I am just not sure whether to stay home.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 1:22 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cranberry my parents are pretty liberal except, apparently, when it comes to Mormons. So for them its more like The Mormon Guy who will sell us to his Elders and The Guy Who's Priest Is Clearly Wrong. They have nothing but disdain for the Republican ticket, which seems to be common in the circles they move in (old, well educated, well off, heavily involved in social issues and smart). They support gay marriage just fine and generally oppose overt religious displays as having no place in public. but a lot of the oldies get really pearl clutchy about abortion for some reason.
posted by fshgrl at 1:29 PM on August 17, 2012

I've been doing a little volunteering with one of the campaigns, and lemme tell ya, hells YES they've got demographic info coming out their ears, and I'd say it's a safe assumption that the other side probably does the same. They've got it nationally, plus broken down by state, county, city, sex, race, and pretty much everything else you can think of.

If you want to see the data for yourself, why not just call one of the campaigns and ask?
posted by easily confused at 1:38 PM on August 17, 2012

Yeah, a lot of the conservative Catholics in my newsfeed were totally down with Romney, but are ONE HUNDRED PERCENT ABSOLUTELY AGAINST Ryan. HAAAAAAAAATE him. Either because the bishops said his budget makes Jesus cry or because he likes Ayn Rand. So a lot of them are agonizing over whether to vote for a Democrat (heresy!) or for THE WORST CATHOLIC EVER. (And I think that's who the writer of National Catholic Reporter's column on "Obama is the pro-life candidate, not Romney" was talking to.)

I also know a lot of Republicans who have been left behind as the party has shifted rightward and who aren't into the culture wars (I live in a pretty blue state; Republicans here tend to be fairly anti-tax (and anti-spend, I guess) but fairly middle-of-the-road on social issues). Many of them have a lot of self- and family-identity wrapped up in being Republicans; several of them are active in local or state politics and serve in office as Republicans, work for elected GOP officials, or work for the local or state party. Some of them are really struggling because Obama represents their views much more closely, and a lot of them are far too smart to think Romney's tax plans are even a little reasonable, but there's a TON of social and sometimes professional status for them wrapped up in being Republican. We have a friend who's a judge who runs on a Republican ticket and, seriously, her fundraisers are packed with Democrats. Like everyone she knows is a Democrat. She's to the left of plenty of Democrats. But she's always been a Republican, her father chaired the state party for a while ... it would be really, really hard for her to leave the party affiliation.

The only Republicans in my newsfeed, most of whom post gleefully about politics all the time (because I'm pretty involved so I know a lot of political people), who are posting "yay Romney!" are pretty Tea-Party and think Obama's a socialist. The rest of them have sort-of tacitly stopped posting about the national race and are only posting about state issues.

So, yeah, I think several of them are undecided -- Republicans who identify as Republicans but have really been left behind by the party. I know some of them are really agonizing about it. I suspect others voted for Obama last cycle and are going to do so again but certainly won't say so.

Anyway, those are some high-information voters who can't make up their minds between the lesser of two evils. (I'm sure there are Democrats with the same problem in the opposite direction, I just know and notice the GOPers with that problem.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:01 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I am undecided *about* voting. I live in Oregon. If I vote for Obama, Oregon's delegates in the Electoral College will vote Obama. If I vote for Romney, the delegates will STILL vote for Obama.

Given our current system, my vote (specifically for President) is meaningless.

So I don't think I'm going to vote at all.
posted by tacodave at 3:00 PM on August 17, 2012

A lot if middle of the road Republicans I know were SO much happier with Romney than McCain or Bush. At least he seemed to have a brain and not be a zealot of any kind. But Ryan drags the whole campaign back down to the street, which they hate. Obama and, especially Biden, are the kind of educated well spoken people they feel comfortable voting for even if they won't admit it in public.
posted by fshgrl at 3:28 PM on August 17, 2012

I am one of those socially liberal, fiscally conservative independent voters. I could have been persuaded to vote Republican, until Ryan was chosen last week. I imagine there are many of us who might have been won over by a thoughtful, moderate, sensible approach. But that ain't happening now. My point being that all that data needs to be re-calibrated next week.
posted by raisingsand at 7:41 PM on August 17, 2012

I'm in Virginia; as I understand it, it's pretty much all gonna come down to Ohio and Virginia --- most of the country is pretty clearly going one way or the other, the rest is 'probable' one side or the other, but Ohio and Virginia are the big battlegrounds for this year.

I don't know about Ohio, but up until about the 2004 campaign Virginia was assumed to be siding solidly Republican, and we NEVER saw a presidential or vice presidential candidate, nor did they waste money on campaign ads here --- why bother, right? That all changed in 2008, when Virginia voted for Obama. True, that was followed by a conservative backlash*, but right now the 2012 presidential race is way too close for comfort.

My point is, most of my voting life my presidential vote has been meaningless; it's kind of exhilarating to actually have it be this important and heavily courted, even if that means we've got to put up with non-stop political ads. (But that doesn't mean everybody else should stay home and not bother voting: as my high school government teacher used to tell us, "if you don't vote, you don't get to bitch about the outcome"!)

*if you think our governor is a back-to-the-1950s conservative, check out our lt. governor and attorney general, among others.
posted by easily confused at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2012

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