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Is There Really An Undecided Voter? October 18, 2008

Posted by gordonwatts in politics.

I listened to the final debate. McCain finally seems to have gotten his fire under control – a much more even burn. I listened to it on the radio, actually, so I had a different impression than did the TV viewers. The “air-quotes” around the “mother’s health”, for example, sounded much more reasonable when he said it over the radio. On TV it almost looked like he was dissing mother’s everywhere.

At this point, however, I’m starting to wonder about that 20% or so of undecided voters. I always expect some small number – I often have trouble deciding on small things and I tend to procrastinate on big things. But 20%? That is a lot of people.

I don’t really understand how they can be undecided. There are some pretty stark contrasts between the two candidates. To be undecided means you don’t care about those stark differences. How similar are they? Well, they are both men. So that is a toss-up. Both US senators, so that is a toss-up. And if you don’t care then that means the things they are different on you don’t care about. Energy future, health care, Iraq war, etc. If you want to argue that the two of them offer different shades of the same solution – fine – Nader is still in the race. I think he is on 45 state ballots… And even if he wasn’t Obama or McCain should be closer to what you believe in.

The only plausible excuse I can come up with for the large fraction of undecided’s is they just haven’t been paying attention. In a normal year that seems plausible. And it might even be normal to tune out the campaign with its ceaseless negative attacks – which mostly make me just roll my eyes (on both sides – give it up people – you can’t distill a single vote or anything down to a yes or no – this country is way too complex to be governed with “yes” or “no”). But this year seems fundamentally different than previous years. The war in Iraq and recession and the implosion of the financial markets and how the USA interacts with the rest of the world. Holy cow – how can one not pay attention!?

Whatever. I don’t get it. Vote on November 4th. And have a great weekend. 🙂 I have no idea what I’m going to do this weekend…



1. Don - October 19, 2008

The real undecideds are the ones who have a strong preference for who should win, but are still undecided about getting themselves into the polling place. And that’s always where the real win/loss is actually determined. Who’s actually going to show up? And, (unfortunately) who’s votes will actually be counted by a very hit-and-miss counting system…

2. gordonwatts - October 19, 2008

Ah, ok — if that is what they mean when they claim “undecided” in the polls… that is something I can understand much better than not being able to pick between two candidates. I’ll have to look this up.

3. Don - October 19, 2008

You and everyone else who gives a hoot!

4. gordonwatts - October 19, 2008

Yeah — but that is my point. This year — how can you not give a hoot. I would expect that many many fewer don’t give a hoot this year. Yet from what i hear, the % of undecideds is larger this year than it was last time!

5. Don - October 19, 2008

If that’s true – and I hope that it is – the result will reveal a convincing statement about where we’re headed. Unless it’s a sqeaker . . . I sure hope that doesn’t happen!

6. gordonwatts - October 19, 2008

The current polls seem to indicate it will be decisive in the electoral colledge but a slim majority in the popular vote.

7. Don - October 25, 2008
8. Not as Undecided as I Thought! « Life as a Physicist - October 31, 2008

[…] gordonwatts in life, politics. trackback Apparently the editorial board of the New York Times is reading my blog: AS we enter the final week of a seemingly endless election campaign, opinion polls continue to […]

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