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Panagakis: Supersized Undecideds


Nick Panagakis is president of Market Shares Corporation, a marketing and public opinion research firm headquartered in Arlington Heights, Ill.

A few weeks ago you may have seen a debate regarding voter indecision on these pages. David Moore argued that in a poll, decided voters who said there was a chance they could still change their minds before election day should be counted as undecided voters

This post is an update based on new poll data. I argued then that this wasn't indecision. I said response to the hypothetical, point-in-time "if the election were held today" question will yield some voters willing to decide on a candidate who won't rule out the possibility that some incident or disclosure, however remote, could lead them to vote otherwise which is not indecision. In other words, this is not candidate induced indecision but calendar induced because the election is still weeks away.

ABC is the only poll that follows up its ""could change mind" question with another that asks chances of doing so. See current ABC Poll numbers here. Click PDF report:

The columns show: 1. likely or registered voters would definitely vote for a candidate, 2. any chance "could change mind", which breaks down to, 3. "good chance" could change, and 4. chances "pretty unlikely" which is thisclose to no chance in h*ll.

081029np01.png

The table shows that over seven weeks, chance of mind-changing drops from 20% to 9%. Moreover, good chance of doing so drops even faster, from 8% to only 3% overall (2%-3% of Obama voters, 3%-4% of McCain voters, last three reports.). In 2004, ABC polls showed the same "good chance" trend up to a few weeks before the election.

This effect appears predictable, regardless of election, regardless of candidate or campaigns. Imagine if polls up until last week were showing undecideds 10 to 20 points higher - or still showing 9 points greater this week. Again, this not indecision between the candidates as I understand it but the understandable effect of asking how voters would vote today, the only way to characterize election contests over time. ABC tracking poll results in the days to come will continue to confirm this.

 

Comments
AySz88:

Maybe some of this is a misinterpretation of the phrase "if the election were today" (i.e. pretend that the election has been moved up to today) as "if today were the election" (i.e. pretend that today is 11/04, who would you vote for?). People misunderstanding it as the latter would indeed increase the undecided number the farther away from election day you are...

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