Who are the Undecided Voters and How Many Remain?

Mish

The question of undecided voters came up today on Twitter.

How Many Undecided Voters Are There?

On October 20, Yahoo!News asked this question: How are there still undecided voters this late in the race?

Despite the major differences between the candidates’ visions for the country — some voters are still on the fence. Recent polls show that anywhere between 2 percent and 8 percent of the electorate say they’re undecided. 

Because of their potential to swing the outcome of elections, undecided voters get an outsized share of attention from campaigns and political media. Their opinions are sought out in news stories, in televised focus groups and at debates with the goal of finding out what, if anything, might sway their decision.

Undecided voters are also the subject of equal parts fascination and derision from some members of the public who find it inexplicable that anyone could still be on the fence this late into a race with such starkly different candidates. “To be undecided in 2020, to me, you literally would have to be on an ice floe,” one political analyst said. Late night host Stephen Colbert called such people “mentally impaired unicorns.”

That was October 20. 

Today, I answered this way to a direct question.

There are fewer undecided voters today than on October 20. 

North Carolina: How Many Decided After the Final Debate?

That is not a scientific study but it is interesting. 

My guess is that most of them were probably leaning Biden. 

Seven Perspectives

  1. Many are dissatisfied with both candidates: “Many … are longtime Republicans wrestling with what they see as a choice between two lousy candidates: a Democrat whose policies they cannot stomach and a Republican incumbent whose personality revolts them.” — Jill Colvin and Aamer Madhani, Associated Press
  2. The real choice is whether to vote at all: “Very few [undecided voters] actually say that there’s a chance that they would vote for the other party’s candidate. More realistically, it’s that these voters may not be motivated to vote at all in the 2020 election.” — Public opinion researcher Ashley Kirzinger to Marketplace
  3. Many are third-party voters searching for the best choice among major-party nominees: “Some undecideds turn out to be people who’ve long felt alienated from the two big political parties, who voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson or Green Party candidate Jill Stein in 2016 and now think their vote may have greater impact if they can make their peace with Biden or Trump.” — Marc Fisher, Christine Spolar and Amy B Wang, Washington Post
  4. They’re torn between personality and policy: “They are nervous about Trump’s persona and they are nervous about Joe Biden’s policies, and that’s what is holding them back. It’s not that they can’t see a difference between the two candidates. They see a tremendous difference.” — Republican pollster Frank Luntz to CNBC
  5. Undecided voters are less politically engaged: “They’re not following the 24-hour news cycle, they’re getting political news second hand or seeing it somewhere else. They’re people who are just living their lives and can’t find the time to care strongly. The election and politics are just not a high priority.” — Public opinion researcher Chris Jackson to Newsweek
  6. Their political opinions don’t follow the same logic as those of typical voters: “One common trait: at this stage of the game, the undecided voter doesn’t fit into an easy political profile but rather possess a more idiosyncratic worldview.” — Victoria McGrane, Boston Globe
  7. Whatever their motivation, undecided voters get far too much attention: “There is a group of people in America, a very small group, who are likely the least informed, yet are receiving more attention from the media than any other group of people in the country right now. They are the undecided voter. And our obsession with them is a dangerous distraction during a critical time.” — Kathleen Davis, Fast Company

I agree with all 7 perspectives.

Assume 4 percent remain undecided. 

Some won't vote, some will vote for Biden, some will vote Green, some will vote Libertarian, some will vote for Trump. 

This isn't 2016 when a huge majority of 13% undecided voters broke for Trump due to understandable Hillary hatred on top of a last minute Comey bombshell.

Mish

Comments (21)
No. 1-11
Eddie_T
Eddie_T

“One common trait: at this stage of the game, the undecided voter doesn’t fit into an easy political profile but rather possess a more idiosyncratic worldview.”

That's an understatement. Maybe they're people who live under a rock, and only come out briefly, once every four years.

It's looking more and more to me like a Biden sweep....but I've been wrong before...

davebarnes2
davebarnes2

"Maybe they're people who live under a rock,"
Exactly

humna909
humna909

The extra curve ball might an explosion in COVID case numbers. It looks like we are seeing the start of an uptick in the US. If infections start going exponential then it could affect voter turnout. I don't know who that will advantage.

On one hand you have the red who might not believe it exist. On the other hand you might have the blues who have voted early....

Realist
Realist

A surge in corona cases leading up to Election Day could sway a few undecideds to vote for someone other than Trump, but I think at this point, most minds are made up. By the way, the US had a record number of corona cases today, while Trump keeps saying the country is rounding the corner.

Worldometer numbers for US

New cases: deaths

Oct 20 62,478:952

Oct 21 64,067:1224

Oct 22 74,446:973

Oct 23 81,210:903

The greater the turnout, the more it favours Biden. Trump’s supporters are very engaged already. Biden supporters not normally very engaged.

And early turnout looks to be up a lot. I suspect it is because so many voters are engaged in order to get rid of Trump. They don’t care much about Biden, but they are sick and tired of Trump.

One other possible factor: since so many Republicans tend to vote on Election Day, and it is highly likely that cases will hit over 100k per day by then, some Republicans might decide its not safe enough to stand in line for hours to vote on Nov 3.

Rbm
Rbm

Here where i live in ca is the positivity rate is down to about 1 percent. Maybe its burned thru for a while. Or maybe enough people have decided to wear mask to drop the numbers. People think its fake news until a buddy/ distance family member gets it / someone down the street dies/ local hospital fills etc.
i got it at work. And know from who exposure time etc. outside mostly masked. About 15 mins divided by 4 people over about 6 hrs. The new cdc recommendations fit the bill. The sickness was minor. Temp for few days 100.5 / 99.5/ 99. Was about it. But i bout dropped over two weeks later at work. Short of breath. Still have some weird things going on. I would suggest people be careful wear a mask. And try to avoid it as long as possible.

Sechel
Sechel

Couple of points on the undecideds and why it probably does not push Trump to a win. First off Biden is polling above 50% in many polls. In 2016 Hillary was not in the weeks before the election. Second as was pointed out above there are far less of them than four years ago. Trump seems to have blown his last chance to sway voters on the national stage, the last debate. He thinks Hunter Biden will do it for him. I don't agree. He also thinks Biden's energy comments will do it. I don't agree. The statement has been corrected and its just not an issue high on many voters list, besides the guys who were big on fracking were already voting for Trump and lastly huge numbers have already voted. I'll be very surprised if the polls move substantially in the coming days.

As far as the remaining undecideds. I agree some will not vote, others may simply be poor decision makers. The choices could not be more different both on policy and on demeanor and character.

Excellent point that this group is probably very likely to do write-in or 3rd party. I imagine very few will vote for Trump.

With 10 days to go in this election no one is persuadable. The goal of both camps should be to simply make sure their side stays motivated and goes to the polls.

Lance Manly
Lance Manly

So, other than undecideds, what do you think the massive amount of early voting (54 million as of now) is going to do to the pollsters likely voter model? Whoever banks the most votes before the election is going to be able to have their GOTV team concentrating on less likely voters, maybe bringing up their participation. There may be more too lazy to vote persons out there than undecideds.

Eddie_T
Eddie_T

Plenty to dislike about the Clinton cabal.....especially the Clinton Foundation.

Neoliberal war party....way over-the-top anti-Russia,,not that I love Putin.

Lip service to memes of social justice....real behavior --- influence peddling.

I wonder how many times Hillary has visited a black church to enjoy those wonderful spirituals....since the 2016 election? What a fake, Tried to claim civil rights.....even though she worked for Goldwater in '64.

I REALLY dislike Hillary Clinton....did I say that? Biden is the heir apparent. The Clintons are still influential.

But, yeah, Trump is a whole 'nother level of burn-it-all-down, kiss-my-ring.....shameless nepotism and graft.....

ColoradoAccountant
ColoradoAccountant

The Trump win in 2016 was a statement by the center that they did not like the status quo. Trump's tax cut was for his buddies. He lost me with that one. The quants at JP Morgan have Trump winning, but Democratic turnout will probably decide.


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