Undecided likely voters are challenge of 2012 election
WASHINGTON — 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.”
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.
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.
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.