Undecided voters become more important as election nears

It’ll take more than political rhetoric to get Kathy Chicoine to the polls on Nov. 6.

There’s just no clarity in each candidate’s plan, she said.

The special education teacher from Cuyahoga Falls remains “hopeless” and undecided after the first presidential debate. It’s not like her to be so indecisive.

While leaning toward President Barack Obama, the 51-year-old still isn’t sure that she will vote at all.

In the past month, the number of undecided voters in Ohio has been cut in half. Chicoine is among the 5 percent who remain, according to the latest polls.

While the number of toss-up voters has decreased, their impact on Ohio’s presidential pick has never been more important, political experts say.

“Obviously in a very close election, which this very well could be, every vote counts. And those undecided voters will become very important,” said David B. Cohen, a political science professor at the University of Akron.

Ohio voting polls put Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney neck-in-neck, with the president leading by an average of 3 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics. That gap has slimmed from 5.5 points prior to last week’s debate.

And some voters have joined the ranks of the undecided.

“I was leaning toward Obama, but now, I’ll have to wait and see where we go from here,” said Joe Sullivan, of Boardman, a newly undecided voter who felt that the president “spent more time getting ready for his [wedding] anniversary than the debate.”

Sullivan, 60, hasn’t switched parties. However, the president’s performance in the first debate has inspired him to remain “open-minded” until the curtain falls on the last two presidential debates on Oct. 16 and 22, as well as the vice presidential debate Thursday.

That’s the beauty of debates, said Paul Sracic, chairman of the department of political science at Youngstown State University.

“I think that’s great. That’s what happened on Wednesday. Things opened up again. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw more undecideds after that debate.”

Sracic also looks forward to the next showdown.

“The next two debates are going to be huge,” Sracic said. “It stands to reason that neither candidate has 50 percent [of the vote] until those undecided move.”

Campaign ads and national media have inundated Ohio voters. Following the first presidential debate, both candidates have tailored ads to run in swing states like Ohio.

“It’s nice to get this kind of attention, as annoying as it can be,” Sracic said.

Moving forward, Sracic said it will be difficult for Obama to sell his vision for the middle class after four years of policy that have done little to bolster wages or employment for those blue-collar workers.

He added that Republicans are better positioned to “reach out and grab” the undecided vote.

Published October 8, 2012 in The Akron Beacon Journal(Link)

“Your typical undecided voter is what we might call a center-right voter,” Sracic explained. “Just looking at the public opinion polls in the United States, it’s a center-right country, meaning there’s an equal number of conservatives and moderates, and a much lower number of liberals.”

Regardless of voter tendencies, the polls are suggesting that the debate had a significant impact on the presidential race, more so than in previous elections. If the trend holds true, Sracic said, the “history books” on how debates have not always swayed votes may need to be rewritten.

“If Romney wins the next one the way he won this one, Obama’s got a big problem,” he said.

TheNewsOutlet.org is a collaborative effort between the Youngstown State University journalism program, Kent State University, The University of Akron and professional media outlets including, WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator (Youngstown), The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).

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