2012 challenge: Corral undecided likely voters

Associated Press
FILE - In these Aug. 2012 file photos, President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, right, campaign in swing states, Obama in Leesburg, Va., and Romney in Waukesha, Wis. The challenge for Obama and Romney is how to lay claim to the small but mightily important swath of the electorate, the undecided likely voter. With six hard-fought weeks left in the campaign, just 7 percent of likely voters have yet to pick a candidate, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. (AP Photos)
.

View gallery

WASHINGTON (AP) — Loretta Mitchell is 100 percent sure she's going to vote in the presidential race come November. She doesn't have a clue who'll get that vote.

That makes her a rare and highly sought after commodity: an undecided likely voter.

The challenge for President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney is how to lay claim to this small but mightily important swath of the electorate. These people are truly up for grabs, claim they're intent on voting and yet aren't paying that much attention.

With six hard-fought weeks left in the campaign, just 7 percent of likely voters have yet to pick a candidate, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. When combined with those who are leaning toward one candidate or the other but far from firm in their choice, about 17 percent of likely voters are what pollsters consider "persuadable."

That includes 6 percent who give soft support to Obama and 4 percent for Romney.

Mitchell, a 68-year-old independent from the small town of Lebanon, Ind., voted for Obama in 2008 but says both candidates this year strike her as "true politicians, and I'm just really down with Washington and politicians."

Like a lot of undecideds, she isn't sure what's going to determine her ballot, and she's in no rush to decide.

The triggers for how and when the undecideds will make up their minds are intensely personal.

So the campaigns have to hope to pick them off as they pursue swing groups in the most competitive states — segments of voters such as independents, seniors and white working-class voters.

People such as Donna Olson, a 66-year-old semi-retired truck driver from Oskaloosa, Iowa, who calls herself a former Democrat.

Olson expects to wait until November to make up her mind, just as she did four years ago, when her vote ultimately went to Republican John McCain.

"I don't like either one of them," Olson says of Obama and Romney. She specifically mentions Obama's support for gay marriage and Romney's proposed tax breaks for wealthy Americans.

So how will she make up her mind?

"I'm just trying to watch a little bit of everything," says Olson. "It probably will come down to November, but I'm open to see what happens between now and then."

At least Olson's tuned in to the race. One huge hurdle for both sides in the next six weeks will be getting the attention of the undecideds.

While 69 percent of likely voters report they're paying a great deal of attention to the race, the figure drops to 59 percent for persuadable likely voters. Among the larger group of all registered voters, just 31 percent of persuadables show much interest in the campaign.

That's one reason both campaigns are pouring so much money into advertising in the most contested states, and why so many ads focus on the campaign's central issue, the economy.

Persuadable voters are deeply negative about the current state of the economy. Almost two-thirds call it poor, and only 28 percent expect the economy to improve in the coming year.

That is far more pessimistic than other voters. Fifty percent of likely voters who have settled on a candidate think the economy will improve in the next year.

While the campaigns are trying lock down every vote they can — through early voting whenever possible — there's always a chunk of the electorate that's late to make up its mind.

In 2008, 4 percent of voters said they didn't pick their candidate until the last day, and they favored Obama by 5 percentage points. Another 3 percent decided in the last three days, and they skewed toward McCain. A further 3 percent decided sometime in the last week and they were about evenly divided.

In 2004, 9 percent of voters reported deciding in the last three days, and they heavily favored Democrat John Kerry over President George W. Bush, who nonetheless won re-election.

In general, the persuadables look a lot like other likely voters, and they're similarly distributed around the country, which makes it tricky for the campaigns to specifically target them. About 52 percent are male and 48 percent female. They do skew slightly Democratic.

Thirty-nine percent say they are Democrats or lean that way, 34 percent are Republican or lean GOP, and 27 percent are independent. Among all likely voters, by contrast, just 8 percent are independent and don't lean toward one party or the other.

The campaigns are intent on firming up those persuadables who already lean their way, and then hope to pick off undecided voters in the swing voter groups they're already making a priority.

The campaigns also are hoping their firm supporters can zero in on undecideds within their own spheres of influence.

As Obama frequently tells campaign crowds, "Don't just talk to people who agree with you; reach out to folks who don't follow politics that closely. Talk to somebody who's undecided."

In the same secretly recorded speech in which Romney said he had no hope of getting the support of the 47 percent of Americans who are dependent on government and back Obama, he spoke wistfully of those on the fence, saying, "What I have to do is convince the 5 to 10 percent in the center that are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon in some cases emotion, whether they like the guy or not, what it looks like."

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg says truly undecided voters are particularly hard to come by this fall, attributing that to an increasingly polarized political climate and a race that ramped up unusually early, with big advertising budgets on both sides.

"There's still a fair amount of time left in this election, but the voters don't act like it," he said. "They look pretty decided."

Even independents are "more partisan in their behavior" these days, Greenberg says.

Republican pollster John McLaughlin, however, says there's still plenty of room for volatility in voters' choices, with the debates yet to come and the race especially close in certain states.

He said that to get on track after recent distractions, Romney's message to undecided voters must be a forward-looking economic pitch — not just that people aren't better off after the last four years, but that the economy will be much better off after four years under Romney.

Overall, the race is neck-and-neck in the AP-GfK poll, with 47 percent of likely voters supporting Obama and 46 percent for Romney.

While 84 percent of likely voters overall think it's been easy to make a decision this year, the undecideds, unsurprisingly, are having a far tougher time. Fifty-six percent of persuadables report having difficulty choosing sides.

Michael McGeehan, a 22-year-old from Salem, Ore., thinks that's the way it should be.

McGeehan is leaning toward Obama but says anything is possible because "things can happen." He adds: "There's a lot of people who have their minds made up too far in advance."

___

AP News Survey Specialist Dennis Junius and Associated Press writer Stacy A. Anderson contributed to this report.

___

Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/nbenac

Follow Jennifer Agiesta at http://www.twitter.com/jennagiesta

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • Kim Jong Un’s Wife Makes First Public Appearance In Months

      Ri Sol-ju was last seen in public on March 28 this year and her absence had sparked rumors of pregnancy while some said she may have had a serious falling out with the North Korean leader.

      International Business Times
    • Inside the Alleged Abduction of California Mom Sherri Papini

      Keith Papini details what happened before his wife was found alive.

      ABC News q
    • Donald Trump Mocks ABC News Reporter for 'Crying' on Election Night

      The president-elect also named his defense secretary.

      Inside Edition
    • NASA photo reveals a startling 300-foot-wide rift in Antarctic Ice Shelf

      The breakup of the massive Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica is getting closer and will eventually produce an iceberg the size of Delaware prowling the Southern Ocean, according to new NASA data.  On Friday, NASA released an astonishing new image taken by researchers flying above the ice shelf on Nov. 10 showing the crack is getting longer, deeper and wider. Scientists think it will eventually cause a large section of the shelf to break off. The scientists associated with a NASA field campaign known as Operation IceBridge measured the Larsen C fracture to be about 70 miles long, more than 300 feet wide and about a third of a mile deep.  SEE ALSO: With a collapsing West Antarctica, sea level rise may be twice as high as we thought "The crack completely cuts through the Ice Shelf but it does not go all the way across it – once it does, it will produce an iceberg roughly the size of the state of Delaware," NASA said in a press release.  View is of a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula's Larsen C ice shelf from our airborne survey of polar ice: https://t.co/VgjxopHHLI @NASA_ICE pic.twitter.com/gt5mpHqbxn — NASA (@NASA) December 3, 2016 When this iceberg calving event happens,  likely within the next decade, it will be the largest calving event in Antarctica since 2000, the third biggest such event ever recorded and the largest from this particular ice shelf, scientists say.  Larsen C lies next to a smaller ice shelf that disintegrated in 2002 after developing a crack similar to the one now growing in Larsen C. Map of Antarctica showing the amount of melting of ice shelves from below. Blue shades represent melt rates of greater than 5 meters (16.4 feet) per year. Arrow points to Larsen C Ice Shelf. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UC Irvine/Columbia University Ice shelves breaking off into icebergs don't directly increase sea levels, since their ice is already resting in the ocean like an ice cube in a glass.  However, because they act like doorstops to the land-based ice behind them, when the shelves give way, the glaciers can begin moving into the sea. This adds new water to the ocean and therefore increases sea levels.  The rift is likely to lead to an iceberg breaking off, which will remove about 10% of the ice shelf’s area pic.twitter.com/uu1KKWG0WP — Project MIDAS (@MIDASOnIce) August 18, 2016 In the case of Larsen C, once the rift extends all the way across the shelf and breaks off the section of ice, a larger area of ice that is about the size of Scotland will destabilize and be at greater risk for melting, according to other research. In August, a British research team monitoring the Larsen C Ice Shelf found that the rift had expanded by 14 miles between March and August of 2016. This was the fastest rate of expansion the researchers had observed. Larsen B Ice Shelf before its breakup in 2002. Image: nasa Larsen B Ice Shelf after its breakup in 2002. Image: nasa The Larsen C Ice Shelf is the most northerly of the remaining major Antarctic Peninsula ice shelves. This part of Antarctica has been warming rapidly in recent years due to a combination of increasing air and sea temperatures.  The nearby Larsen B Ice Shelf made worldwide headlines in 2002 when it broke up after a similar process of rift-induced iceberg calving. The Larsen B event was featured in the opening scenes of the sci-fi climate change-related disaster film, The Day After Tomorrow . BONUS: New Zealand's earthquake literally cracked the Earth open

      Mashable
    • Philippines vice president quits cabinet, citing plot to 'steal' job

      Philippines Vice President Leni Robredo announced on Sunday she would resign from her cabinet post, citing "major differences" with President Rodrigo Duterte and suspicions that a plot was underway to unseat her from the number two job. Robredo is refusing to step down as vice president but said she decided to quit as Housing Secretary after receiving a text message from another minister, telling her on Duterte's behalf to "desist from attending all cabinet meetings" from Monday. The president and vice president are elected in separate contests in the Philippines and Robredo was not Duterte's running mate.

      Reuters
    • Inside Edition
    • NYPD: Men yelled 'Donald Trump', tried to pull off victim's hijab on subway

      18-year-old Yasmine Seweid is recounting the ugly attack that happened on Thursday night. It was around 10 p.m. when the college student jumped on the 6 train to head home to New Hyde Park, when she noticed three young men in the car.

      WABC – NY
    • Police use 'fake news' in sting aimed at California gang

      Police investigating a notorious gang in a city on California's central coast issued a fake press release that the chief credited with saving two men by deceiving gang members who wanted to kill them, ...

      Associated Press
    • Inside Edition
    • Chains and branded skin: California kidnap case baffles cops

      SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Three weeks after Sherri Papini disappeared, the question of whether she was dead or alive was answered when the young mother and wife was spotted waving frantically for help along a California freeway early on Thanksgiving morning. But the mystery over what happened to her during those 22 days just seemed to grow stranger.

      Associated Press
    • Trump targets another company, draws Sanders' criticism

      By Doina Chiacu WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Donald Trump drew a rebuke from former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday, after turning his attention to another Indiana company planning a move to Mexico. "Rexnord of Indiana is moving to Mexico and rather viciously firing all of its 300 workers. Rexnord Corp , an industrial supplier based in Milwaukee, announced plans in October to move a bearing plant, and its 300 jobs, from Indianapolis to Mexico, employees told the Indianapolis Star at the time.

      Reuters
    • S. Korea crisis proves perils of cheating at school

      When South Korea's Park Geun-Hye looks back on the scandal-fuelled implosion of her presidency, she may reflect ruefully on what lit the first fuse -- a parent pulling strings over a child's education. Park's downfall was the result of her friendship with Choi Soon-Sil -- a secretive, long-time confidante who stands accused of meddling in state affairs, squeezing tens of millions of dollars from local companies and amassing a fortune by leveraging her ties to the president. It's a damning list of charges, but one that may never have come to light but for a fatal misstep by Choi two years ago in using her influence to secure her daughter's admission to an elite university.

      AFP
    • Students: Slain USC prof was caring; arrested student quiet

      LOS ANGELES (AP) — A graduate student arrested on suspicion of killing the professor who oversaw his work at the University of California was described by some of his fellow classmates as a quiet but seemingly normal young man while others say he was troubled and pegged as most likely to quit the group's rigorous doctoral program.

      Associated Press
    • U.S. Navy aims to buy more Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets: source

      The U.S. Navy plans to divest its older model Boeing Co F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets in coming years and hopes to buy dozens of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to deal with a shortfall of strike fighters aboard its carriers, a Navy official said. "To decrease the strike fighter shortfall and to best prepare future air wings for likely threats we will soon divest from legacy Hornets, look to buy several squadrons worth of Super Hornets and continue with efforts to bring on the F-35 carrier variant," said the official. Sources familiar with Navy plans say delays in the fielding of the carrier variant of the Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter jet, longer-than-expected maintenance times for older model Hornets, and higher usage rates have left the Navy facing a shortfall of about 70 fighter jets in coming years.

      Reuters
    • Video: Man Streams High Speed Crash on Facebook Live

      A 20-year-old motorist live streamed his 115 mph crash on Facebook, officials said.

      ABC News q
    • What Did Mila Kunis Name Baby No. 2?

      “It’s a private name…You don’t want everyone else’s opinion on the name,” Kutcher said in October.

      International Business Times
    • Pre-K Teacher Shot Dead in Her California Home

      A Northern California pre-k teacher was killed in front of her husband and two children when their home was riddled with bullets Thursday night.

      Tribune
    • Guardiola apologises for Man City meltdown

      Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola issued an apology after his side lost their cool and were reduced to nine men during Saturday's 3-1 loss to Premier League leaders Chelsea. City took the lead late in the first half, but second-half goals from Diego Costa, Willian and Eden Hazard gave Chelsea a smash-and-grab victory and the hosts lost their composure in stoppage time. Sergio Aguero was sent off for a flying lunge on David Luiz and in the ensuing touchline melee, Fernandinho was dismissed after throttling Cesc Fabregas and shoving him over an advertising hoarding.

      AFP
    • 2 women charged in death of boy who was starved, burned

      MILWAUKEE (AP) — Two Milwaukee women were charged Saturday with child neglect and other counts in the death of a 7-year-old boy who was starved, burned with cigarettes, beaten and whipped with cords.

      Associated Press
    • Bergdahl seeks pardon from Obama to avert desertion trial

      WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the former prisoner of war who's accused of endangering comrades by walking off his post in Afghanistan, is asking President Barack Obama to pardon him before leaving office.

      Associated Press