Report

Follow Up Interviews Find Swing Voters Slow to Decide

  • October 27, 2004

With less than a week to go before the election, many swing voters have yet to commit to a candidate, but over the past month there has been some movement among this group toward Sen. John Kerry. A Pew Research Center follow-up survey with 519 swing voters - who in September were undecided or said they could change their vote - finds that about half (52 percent) have moved off the fence, while nearly as many (48 percent) still are not certain of how they will vote.

Overall, Kerry has made more substantial gains among these swing voters in the past month than has Bush. Today, 40 percent say they are either certain to vote for Kerry or are leaning toward him (up from just 28 percent who leaned in Kerry's direction a month ago). Bush's support among this group of swing voters stands at 38 percent, up only slightly from 34 percent in September.

Those who have decided on their vote in the past month mention the debates as a crucial factor in their decision more than any other events or issues, especially those who have committed to Kerry (45 percent among those who cited a reason).

The call-back survey finds that the remaining swing voters are still torn over their decision. About three-quarters (76 percent) say they agree with Bush on some important issues and with Kerry on others. Consequently, a 45percent plurality believes that either Bush or Kerry would make a good president. And the vast majority of still-uncommitted voters (78 percent) say it has been hard to make a final decision.

The poll, which called back respondents initially interviewed Sept. 8-26, finds that even at this late stage in the campaign, half of remaining swing voters say they do not know enough about Bush and Kerry. That compares with about a third of those who have committed to a candidate since September (34 percent). Moreover, only about half of the remaining swing voters (53 percent) believe it really matters who wins the election, compared with 71percent of recently decided voters.

The presidential debates helped to give Kerry an advantage among swing voters who have shifted their views over the past month. Most swing voters watched at least some of the debates, and by more than three-to-one (44 percent-13 percent) say that Kerry did the better job in the debates. Among those who have recently committed to Kerry fully 74 percent said he did better.