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A Close-Up Look at Undecided Voters

A New Republic article by a Kerry canvasser who spoke with hundreds of undecided voters in the weeks before the election has some interesting insights into the ways many average voters think about political issues and candidates. Here are a few excerpts:

…Most undecided voters…seem to view politics the way I view laundry. While I understand that to be a functioning member of society I have to do my laundry, and I always eventually get it done, I'll never do it before every last piece of clean clothing is dirty, as I find the entire business to be a chore. A significant number of undecided voters, I think, view politics in exactly this way: as a chore, a duty, something that must be done but is altogether unpleasant, and therefore something best put off for as long as possible…

…Undecided voters, as everyone knows, have a deep skepticism about the ability of politicians to keep their promises and solve problems. So the staggering incompetence and irresponsibility of the Bush administration and the demonstrably poor state of world affairs seemed to serve not as indictments of Bush in particular, but rather of politicians in general. Kerry, by mere dint of being on the ballot, was somehow tainted by Bush's failures as badly as Bush was.

As a result, undecideds seemed oddly unwilling to hold the president accountable for his previous actions, focusing instead on the practical issue of who would have a better chance of success in the future. Because undecideds seemed uninterested in assessing responsibility for the past, Bush suffered no penalty for having made things so bad; and because undecideds were focused on, but cynical about, the future, the worse things appeared, the less inclined they were to believe that problems could be fixed--thereby nullifying the backbone of Kerry's case. Needless to say, I found this logic maddening…

There’s a lot more, and it provides an interesting addition to the discussion about why the election went the way it did.


I'm a partisan Democrat, and I felt hopeless about solving the Iraq problem. My logic was that Bush should not be rewarded for getting us into the mess in the first place by being reelected - but I had no more faith in John Kerry than in George Bush in getting us out.

Some argued that Kerry would be more credible with potential coalition partners, and therefore able to shift some of the burden onto others. I felt it was naive to think that anyone else in the world would be dumb enough to follow the US over the cliff.

This made it difficult in the end to debate Iraq with undecideds and with moderate Republicans who were voting for Bush for other reasons. My father, for example, is a died-in-the-wool Republican, but he thinks the Iraq war is dumb, dumb, dumb. I had to agree with him that Kerry offered no more hope of a solution to that problem than Bush did.

What a horrible, horrible mess.

GET a load of the following:
First there's the study of E-voting by UC Berkeley.
Then there's the new article at CommonDreams.org about on the ground fraud in Volusia (Daytona Beach is dixiecrat?). Now comes the latest exit poll data:
Come on Ruy -- let's see you spin this away (especially as the midnite data still agree):

Here's one guy's election projection based on the latest untainted released exit polls predicting a Kerry victory:

TruthIsAll (1000+ posts) Wed Nov-17-04 09:54 AM
Response to Original message


Edited on Wed Nov-17-04 10:38 AM by TruthIsAll

Note: Kerry's 50.52% 2party vote% vs Bush is damn close to
the 50.6% he got based on the weighted state exit polls!

I do not have the time right now to compare state by state to
the exit polls.

Kerry% Gore% Recent State Polls
St EV vs.Bush vs.Bush Kerry% Bush%
AL 9 40.63 42.86 (2.23) 39.0 57.0 (18.0)
AK 3 34.48 32.18 2.30 30.0 57.0 (27.0)
AZ 10 47.37 46.88 0.49 45.0 50.0 (5.0)
AR 6 50.00 47.42 2.58 48.0 48.0 0.0 6
CA 55 53.85 55.79 (1.94) 55 49.0 42.0 7.0 55

CO 9 49.47 45.16 4.31 47.0 48.0 (1.0)
CT 7 55.32 59.57 (4.26) 7 52.0 42.0 10.0 7
DE 3 54.22 56.70 (2.48) 3 45.0 38.0 7.0 3
DC 3 87.64 90.43 (2.79) 3 78.0 11.0 67.0 3
FL 27 51.55 49.95 1.60 50.0 47.0 3.0 27

GA 15 44.68 43.88 0.80 42.0 52.0 (10.0)
HI 4 50.00 60.22 (10.22) 4 45.0 45.0 0.0 4
ID 4 33.71 29.47 4.23 30.0 59.0 (29.0)
IL 21 56.25 56.12 0.13 21 54.0 42.0 12.0 21
IN 11 40.21 41.84 (1.63) 39.0 58.0 (19.0)

IA 7 53.19 50.52 2.68 7 50.0 44.0 6.0 7
KS 6 38.14 38.95 (0.80) 37.0 60.0 (23.0)
KY 8 41.05 41.84 (0.78) 39.0 56.0 (17.0)
LA 9 45.45 45.92 (0.46) 40.0 48.0 (8.0)
ME 4 56.18 52.69 3.49 4 50.0 39.0 11.0 4

MD 10 55.67 58.33 (2.66) 10 54.0 43.0 11.0 10
MA 12 70.33 64.52 5.81 12 64.0 27.0 37.0 12
MI 17 53.61 52.58 1.03 17 52.0 45.0 7.0 17
MN 10 54.17 51.06 3.10 10 52.0 44.0 8.0 10
MS 6 45.16 41.41 3.75 42.0 51.0 (9.0)

MO 11 47.31 48.45 (1.14) 44.0 49.0 (5.0)
MT 3 38.71 36.26 2.45 36.0 57.0 (21.0)
NE 5 34.41 34.74 (0.33) 32.0 61.0 (29.0)
NV 5 50.00 47.92 2.08 49.0 49.0 0.0 5
NH 4 50.00 49.47 0.53 47.0 47.0 0.0 4

NJ 15 54.35 58.33 (3.99) 15 50.0 42.0 8.0 15
NM 5 50.00 50.05 (0.05) 5 49.0 49.0 0.0 5
NY 31 59.38 63.16 (3.78) 31 57.0 39.0 18.0 31
NC 15 48.14 43.43 4.71 46.7 50.3 (3.6)
ND 3 38.89 35.11 3.78 35.0 55.0 (20.0)

OH 20 51.55 47.92 3.63 50.0 47.0 3.0 20
OK 7 31.46 38.78 (7.31) 28.0 61.0 (33.0)
OR 7 53.19 50.05 3.14 7 50.0 44.0 6.0 7
PA 21 52.63 52.58 0.05 21 50.0 45.0 5.0 21
RI 4 60.87 65.59 (4.72) 4 56.0 36.0 20.0 4

SC 8 43.30 41.84 1.46 42.0 55.0 (13.0)
SD 3 44.68 38.78 5.91 42.0 52.0 (10.0)
TN 11 48.73 47.96 0.77 47.8 50.3 (2.5)
TX 34 38.54 39.18 (0.63) 37.0 59.0 (22.0)
UT 5 25.81 27.96 (2.15) 24.0 69.0 (45.0)

VT 3 56.99 55.43 1.55 3 53.0 40.0 13.0 3
VA 13 47.96 45.83 2.13 47.0 51.0 (4.0)
WA 11 54.17 52.63 1.54 11 52.0 44.0 8.0 11
WV 5 48.52 46.94 1.58 45.8 48.6 (2.8)
WI 10 53.68 50.05 3.63 10 51.0 44.0 7.0 10
WY 3 30.85 29.17 1.68 29.0 65.0 (36.0)

Total 538 50.52 50.27 0.26 260 47.88 46.89 0.99 322

Gore won 21 states with 266 electoral votes

Kerry leads 26 states with 322 electoral votes
More grist for the justifying of the lying mill --
JUSTIFY THIS! (realistically and in the context of honestly appraising the other data)


Great article and some sobering insights for us "political junkie" types, I think. So how do we learn to speak the "language" of the undecided voter? Is there a single language, for that matter? "Issues" and "concerns," obviously, aren't doing the trick.

We've tried -- and all too often failed -- to speak to the hearts and the minds of voters. What I think we need is to learn to speak to their gut, to somehow reach that viscera . . . something that's as foreign to many of us as "teaching the alphabet to rats."

I do believe, however, that we need to rethink our mission overall, to abandon the notion of "educating" voters per se. For one thing, this mindset allows a certain condescension to creep into our thinking, as though we're out there as a favor to the "great unwashed." Too often, that attitude comes across all too loudly, unspoken though it may be. We need, I think, to CONNECT, rather than "educate."

Good luck to us, I say!


The Nov.2 2004 the vote was stolen.

Stop all this complaining and get your fingers working on letters to everyone you can think of and complain about the voter fraud. This Hispanic or cell phone stuff or morals is just diversonary to keep you talking about anything other than voter fraud. This election was overwhelmingly going for the Democrats everywhere. Exit polls at 4pm had kerry up in Ohio by 5%! Bush could not have won this election legally...it was impossible unless the votes were manipulated!

Did anyone see Bill Moyers piece last night on PBS about Tom DeLay and Ralf Reed? It was an amazing expose. Just like old times! Print out or email any and all exposes to all your friends and ANYONE on your email lists, do it over and over again for the next few years.

Cable "news" and the paper media are on their way out as reliable sources. It is just a matter of time before the Internet is the only souce for real news...it is now time for serious Internet news providers to try and go legit and get their views out to the general public.

One way to do this is to link to Google or Yahoo...a lot!

It might help the Kerry canvasser come to terms with the election results, if they conclude that Undecided Voters were simply unwilling to hold President Bush accountable for his actions. On the whole, I don't think that's accurate or fair to millions and millions of voters. But, I suspect that it helps salve the hurt.

His comments seemingly absolve Kerry of any responsibility at all, in the end result too, which isn't very persuasive either.

On the whole, I don't find his comments very compelling at all.

In my opinion you have hit the nail on the head,
we need to connect rather than educate. This is especially true of voters with high school education or less and exurban voters. Living in a southern state, that is trying to turn into a mid-atlantic state, one of the things that will help is to not be condescending toward voters who do not make their decisions solely on evidence and reason.
To do this we need a candidate who has a core set of principles he believes in and communicates those principles to voters instead of facts and figures. This candidate would be even stronger if he can make an arguement for those principles using facts and figures when challenged.

Posted by redsoxkangaroo at November 19, 2004 07:44 PM

I disagree on the Iraq issue. The other nations of the world have a huge stake in the middle east, both economically and politically. Bush's war on Iraq has destablized the entire region and their will be more problems in the future. The other nations will not support Bush because he is also at war
with "the new world order". The neo-cons want to prove that the economic and polictical policies in Europe and spreading around the world are wrong.

The Europeans are fearful of this pre-emptive war
strategy as well. They will not cooperate with Bush, but would cooperate with a more moderate American leader.

Finally, assymetric warfare is a war of information,
not conventional weapons. This is not easily explained in a sound bite in a campaign, but Americans will see the results of the conventional war Bush is waging over the next four years.

I am an undecided voter. I don't view being president as some big reward. I view voting as my opportunity to hire somebody to do a job. It's not some passionately emotional decision, or some good-party, bad-party deal. It is pragmatic.

The candidates in this race were equally bad. They had equally bad track records on all kinds of things (that is, in my point of view). My vote was decided, as it has been in most cases, toward the lesser of two evils.

What pains me most about listening to the post-election comments of the Democrats is how they don't understand me, and don't understand the red-staters around me. It's as though everyone who is a Dem party power person lives in New York and thinks running Hilary in 2008 is a good idea.

It's kind of sad.

Hey, it could happen!

Lawyers Make Plans To Challenge Ohio Election Results


Reported by: 9News
Web produced by: Neil Relyea
Photographed by: 9News
11/20/04 12:02:14 PM
While President Bush is making plans for his inaugural party in January, some lawyers here in Ohio are saying not so fast.

The group says it plans to challenge the results of the presidential election that gave Bush the win, as soon as the final vote tally is official.

They say documented cases of long lines, a shortage of machines and a pattern of problems in predominantly black neighborhoods are enough evidence to bring such a challenge.

Secretary of State Ken Blackwell will certify the election results by December 6.

It confirms what I have long felt about the undecideds. They are painfully ignorant people who shirk their duty for 46 months, then try to cram for the final. Of course, they don't understand the course like those who have been paying attention.

The undecideds hate politics, but THEY are the cause of most campaign ills. If we did not have so many ignorant undecideds, we would not have to spend half a billion dollars on TV ads trying to explain things in terms simple enough their amoeba like brains can process.

Anyone who doesn't know who they want to vote for by September 1st should not vote.

I lament this on many occasions after elections. The very people who whine the most about politics are the reason hundreds of millions have to be spent. If they were not so ignorant, glitzy tv ads would not work.

Well, this all makes perfect sense except that how does it square with the (now discredited) trend of undecideds tending to break for the challenger?