While watching both a baseball pennant series’ final and a pro-football game at a local sports bar Monday night instead of the third presidential debate, it occurred to me that I should take my own poll of undecideds to see what insights I might garner.
Obviously, both campaigns are trying whatever they think might blow more swing voters their way in last ditch efforts. Team Obama, for example, has come up with a shiny new little booklet with pretty pictures to show that they really do have a plan to improve everything in the next four years. This to combat the Romney team’s claim that they don’t. The numbers don’t seem to quite add up, but Romney’s numbers don’t, either. My guess is that nobody trusts anyone’s so-called facts at this point anyway. Not that this phenomenon is exactly brand new. As Winston Churchill once said: “The only statistics I believe in are the ones I make up myself.”
At this point, for swing voters, it is all about last minute impressions. A number of liberal commentators, and the not so liberal Andrew Sullivan, have concluded Obama routed Romney Monday. I’m convinced they have no sense how little that might help his chances, even if in some sense they are right. They seem to equate winning the debate with winning over undecideds, which may not be the case at all. In my previous post I described one undecided, Wendy, who had her balance tipped in the opposite direction, towards Romney. Of course, that is only one, but why couldn’t there be many Wendys out there?
Let’s return to that sports bar Monday night where I hatched my plan to do my own poll. In addition to my desire to understand was the thought that if I conducted my poll in bars I might be able to deduct part of my bar tabs as research expenses on my taxes.
That’s how the bartender, who we will call Bob, became my first respondent. When asked if he was likely to vote, he said he was, and that he was undecided. Perfect. I went on to ask if he leaned one way or another and he said: ” I don’t really like Obama, but I can’t vote for a Mormon.”
Why? “Do you know much about Mormons? Below the surface, they are into some strange sh_t, man.”….and Bob just shook his head while walking to pour a drink for another customer. He then looked back and said:
“I might just vote for my dad. He’s a good man.”
Bob doesn’t seem totally sold on voting for his father, so he remains an undecided, except for the fact he is clearly leaning away from Romney, leaving the choices Obama, his father or someone else, or just not voting. I do not have a clue what he will do at this point. I’ll ask him after Nov 6.
Liberals tend to have too much faith in reason. Wendy, mentioned in my previous post, is an indication that you can “win” a debate and still lose voters. My guess in her case is that it was primarily Obama’s sarcasm at times which swayed her the other way, just as she probably did not care for Joe Biden’s derisive giggles while Ryan spoke in the VP debates. I believe undecideds are more swayed by likeable or unlikeable impressions than specific facts, especially in this age of “post-truth politics.”
Bob adds another dimension to that, the possibility that a number of undecideds are sufficiently idiosyncratic when it comes to voting for a president that one can’t predict what they might do or what might sway them.
Bob has prompted me to end my poll, as the task of understanding the range of undecideds now seems mind boggling. If the other pollsters turn out to be significantly wrong here and there on election day, I’ll think of Bob.
P. S. – I imagine that most of you are sick of hearing about this election just as I am in writing about it. Just in case it matters to someone besides me, in next Tuesday’s post I will lay out the reasons I will vote for Obama and not Romney. Then I plan to take a break until Nov 9th, the Friday after the election. Finally, after all this time, energy and money spent to just pick the captain of our leaking ship (and his congressional crew), we’ll begin to see if much can be done to save it.