Do Voters Change Their Minds?

 

When they were trying to persuade us that it was all over — that the fact that Romney was doing markedly less well than Obama in the polls of registered voters meant that he was cooked — the pundits and journalists who belong to what was, in 2008, so aptly called Obama’s “unofficial campaign,” repeatedly told us that the debates make little or no difference and that this year the voters have already made up their minds.

But is this true? It was certainly not true in 1980, and I have said as much. But what about other years? Was everything set in concrete in those years by 1 October? The answer, as Jay Cost made abundantly clear in his post this morning, is that no Presidential race is ever decided by 1 October. The exit polling data from 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 suggests that anywhere from 22% to 30% of the voters make up their minds in October and that one-third to one-half of those put the decision off until the last week. When pressed by pollsters earlier on, they may state a preference or indicate that they lean one way or another, but they are open to changing their minds.

There is a reason for this. Americans have minds; they are pleased that they do; and the only proof that they have they are actually exercising judgment is that, from time to time, they actually change their minds. Americans are a cantankerous lot.

So are there swings in October? Boy are there! Take a look at Cost’s chart:

The opera is not over until the fat lady sings.

You should read Cost’s entire piece. He also shows that Romney has been hoarding money. This month, as many within the electorate wake up, sigh, and contemplate the necessity of reaching a judgment, they are going to be bombarded.

There are 26 comments.

  1. Essgee Inactive

    That probably explains some of the variations we are seeing already. 

     Would be great if everything was in play until the final landslide for Romeny—that would make me sleep well election night!

    • #1
    • October 4, 2012, at 1:09 AM PDT
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  2. Profile Photo Member

    I don’t think it’s a matter of people changing their minds.

    I think that the Democrats have tried to make it a crime to disagree with Obama. People are keeping their mouths shut, until they ready the polling booth.

    • #2
    • October 4, 2012, at 1:13 AM PDT
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  3. DocJay Inactive

    He also shows that Romney has been hoarding money. This month, as many within the electorate wake up, sigh, and contemplate the necessity of reaching a judgment, they are going to be bombarded.

    Exactly. The Romney strategy has been to unleash everything starting now. Obama has spent most of his money. Romney will win this election for sure if he wins these debates.

    • #3
    • October 4, 2012, at 1:14 AM PDT
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  4. Creepy Cat Guy Member

    I always wonder about the impact early voting in swing states like Ohio and Iowa has on analyses like this. I tend to think that the early-voting electorate in those places would be made up of the more hard-core political junkie, decided partisans like those of us at Ricochet or the Lefty equivalent that would never be changing their votes in the last 4 weeks of an election, but I really have no idea. This might just be wishful thinking.

    • #4
    • October 4, 2012, at 1:15 AM PDT
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  5. Profile Photo Member

    I hope you and Cost are right about the money bombardment. I was hearing, and assuming, that Romney and the RNC were saving up for the reportedly unprecedented ground game. That’s great, but I still think we need more ads..if they feel similarly, they need to start letting them go tomorrow.

    • #5
    • October 4, 2012, at 1:15 AM PDT
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  6. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe Post author
    Created Or Saved: I always wonder about the impact early voting in swing states like Ohio and Iowa has on analyses like this. I tend to think that the early-voting electorate in those places would be made up of the more hard-core political junkie, decided partisans like those of us at Ricochet or the Lefty equivalent that would never be changing their votes in the last 4 weeks of an election, but I really have no idea. This might just be wishful thinking. · 5 minutes ago

    Edited 2 minutes ago

    You left out the graveyards. It all depends on whether one has to show an ID.

    • #6
    • October 4, 2012, at 1:22 AM PDT
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  7. DocJay Inactive

    We win in spite of the usual cheating.

    • #7
    • October 4, 2012, at 1:24 AM PDT
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  8. Profile Photo Member
    DocJay:He also shows that Romney has been hoarding money. This month, as many within the electorate wake up, sigh, and contemplate the necessity of reaching a judgment, they are going to be bombarded.

    Exactly. The Romney strategy has been to unleash everything starting now. Obama has spent most of his money. Romney will win this election for sure if he wins these debates. · 10 minutes ago

    Obama has not spent most of his money. He had 90 mil cash on hand at the end of August and is out-raising Romney now.

    • #8
    • October 4, 2012, at 1:33 AM PDT
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  9. JT Friedman Inactive

    I tend to believe the myth of the true “swing” voter is just that. Very few voters change their mind each year between R and D when they pull that lever in November. However many voters like to think they are so “open minded” to be a swing voter, it makes them feel smarter.

    The real truth I think is more about turn-out. Many people only vote sometimes, and only when there is someone they really like or a particular issue that speaks to them. The key to success is swinging the very few real swing voters and getting your supporters off their butts on Tuesday. 

    • #9
    • October 4, 2012, at 1:43 AM PDT
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  10. Misthiocracy grudgingly Member

    The conventional wisdom I’ve always heard is that the majority of voters make up their mind in the final 72 hours before election day.

    Conventional wisdom, told to me third hand, with no data to back it up, mind you.

    • #10
    • October 4, 2012, at 1:50 AM PDT
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  11. Yeah...ok. Inactive

    So we’re to examine this chart and conclude that the polls accurately reflected the electoral opinion and those opinions changed?

    What am I missing (I suspect a lot)? I look at this chart and conclude the polls are poor at detecting the opinion/behavior of the voters. I do not see this as evidence that voter’s changed their mind/votes between the beginning and end of October.

    That isn’t movement – that is error margin.

    • #11
    • October 4, 2012, at 2:06 AM PDT
    • Like
  12. Anne R. Pierce Inactive

    Like your statement: Americans have minds; they are pleased that they do; and the only proof that they have they are actually exercising judgment is that, from time to time, they actually change their minds. Americans are a cantankerous lot.

    The dumbing down of literally everything because of the assumption that everyone is numb and stupid is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • #12
    • October 4, 2012, at 2:11 AM PDT
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  13. Jerry Carroll Inactive

    CSPAN covered a discussion today between Jon Huntsman and William Kristol and a former Democratic congressman. I was struck by Kristol’s certainty that Mitt will lose. Anybody know what’s up with that? I know he backed others in the primaries, including the doltish governor of Texas, “Oops.” But why is he trashing Romney?

    • #13
    • October 4, 2012, at 2:36 AM PDT
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  14. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe Post author
    wmartin
    DocJay:He also shows that Romney has been hoarding money. This month, as many within the electorate wake up, sigh, and contemplate the necessity of reaching a judgment, they are going to be bombarded.

    Exactly. The Romney strategy has been to unleash everything starting now. Obama has spent most of his money. Romney will win this election for sure if he wins these debates. · 10 minutes ago

    Obama has not spent most of his money. He had 90 mil cash on hand at the end of August and is out-raising Romney now. · 1 hour ago

    Romney & co. have $191 million.

    • #14
    • October 4, 2012, at 2:46 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe Post author
    JT Friedman: I tend to believe the myth of the true “swing” voter is just that. Very few voters change their mind each year between R and D when they pull that lever in November. However many voters like to think they are so “open minded” to be a swing voter, it makes them feel smarter.

    The real truth I think is more about turn-out. Many people only vote sometimes, and only when there is someone they really like or a particular issue that speaks to them. The key to success is swinging the very few real swing voters and getting your supporters off their butts on Tuesday. · 1 hour ago

    How do you explain to yourself Jay Cost’s chart?

    • #15
    • October 4, 2012, at 2:47 AM PDT
    • Like
  16. Anne R. Pierce Inactive
    Jerry Carroll: CSPAN covered a discussion today between Jon Huntsman and William Kristol and a former Democratic congressman. I was struck by Kristol’s certainty that Mitt will lose. Anybody know what’s up with that? I know he backed others in the primaries, including the doltish governor of Texas, “Oops.” But why is he trashing Romney? · 4 minutes ago

    I was at a conference at Princeton in May, in which Kristol spoke and seemed much less conservative than previously and made “understanding” remarks about the Obama admin. Everyone was bewildered as to why.

    • #16
    • October 4, 2012, at 2:48 AM PDT
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  17. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe Post author
    Anne Pierce, Guest Contributor: Like your statement: Americans have minds; they are pleased that they do; and the only proof that they have they are actually exercising judgment is that, from time to time, they actually change their minds. Americans are a cantankerous lot.

    The dumbing down of literally everything because of the assumption that everyone is numb and stupid is a self-fulfilling prophecy. · 35 minutes ago

    Amen.

    • #17
    • October 4, 2012, at 2:48 AM PDT
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  18. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe Post author
    Jerry Carroll: CSPAN covered a discussion today between Jon Huntsman and William Kristol and a former Democratic congressman. I was struck by Kristol’s certainty that Mitt will lose. Anybody know what’s up with that? I know he backed others in the primaries, including the doltish governor of Texas, “Oops.” But why is he trashing Romney? · 11 minutes ago

    Bill Kristol is a good man. But he spends too much time in DC talking with other folks from DC. He should get in his car and take a very long drive. He would be amazed.

    • #18
    • October 4, 2012, at 2:49 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe Post author
    Yeah…ok.: So we’re to examine this chart and conclude that the polls accurately reflected the electoral opinion and those opinions changed?

    What am I missing (I suspect a lot)? I look at this chart and conclude the polls are poor at detecting the opinion/behavior of the voters. I do not see this as evidence that voter’s changed their mind/votes between the beginning and end of October.

    That isn’t movement – that is error margin. · 43 minutes ago

    Margin errors of ca. 10% on average? I think not. You have to choose between your conviction and the evidence, and you are firmly attached to your opinion.

    • #19
    • October 4, 2012, at 2:51 AM PDT
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  20. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe Post author
    Anne Pierce, Guest Contributor
    Jerry Carroll: CSPAN covered a discussion today between Jon Huntsman and William Kristol and a former Democratic congressman. I was struck by Kristol’s certainty that Mitt will lose. Anybody know what’s up with that? I know he backed others in the primaries, including the doltish governor of Texas, “Oops.” But why is he trashing Romney? · 4 minutes ago

    I was at a conference at Princeton in May, in which Kristol spoke and seemed muchless conservative than previously and made “understanding” remarks about the Obama admin. Everyone was bewildered as to why. · 9 minutes ago

    Perhaps, his former assistant David Brooks was whispering into his ear.

    • #20
    • October 4, 2012, at 2:58 AM PDT
    • Like
  21. Chris Johnson Inactive

    Exit Polls seem meaningless, to me. They are self-selective, as they reflect the opinions of those willing to speak with Exit Pollsters.

    Some people change their minds, though. I overheard something yesterday, from someone I know that could not be a more committed Democrat voter, or (usually) Obama fan. In response to a question from someone else, that person said of Obama, “…because I don’t like him”.

    Nobody I know listens to TV or radio ads, nor reads the ridiculous, glossy flyers we all get in the mail. Money spent on that is mostly wasted, from what I see. Word of mouth and get-out-the-vote is where it’s at. That’s where I would be spending money.

    • #21
    • October 4, 2012, at 3:11 AM PDT
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  22. Andrew Barrett Inactive

    Professor Rahe, your analyses of the presidential race have been a well needed panacea for the myriad doomsayers in the legacy media and amongst conservative pundits as well. Your optimism while faced with numerous health problems is to be commended. If only it would rub off on more of your conservative colleagues here at Ricochet and elsewhere.

    • #22
    • October 4, 2012, at 4:06 AM PDT
    • Like
  23. JT Friedman Inactive
    Paul A. Rahe
    JT Friedman: I tend to believe the myth of the true “swing” voter is just that. Very few voters change their mind each year between R and D when they pull that lever in November. However many voters like to think they are so “open minded” to be a swing voter, it makes them feel smarter.

    The real truth I think is more about turn-out. Many people only vote sometimes, and only when there is someone they really like or a particular issue that speaks to them. The key to success is swinging the very few real swing voters and getting your supporters off their butts on Tuesday. · 1 hour ago

    How do you explain to yourself Jay Cost’s chart? · 1 hour ago

    The chart is based on Gallop poll, which relies upon a stranger asking random potential voters who they “plan” to vote for. A more accurate measure is see who same person for voted last election and if they voted D or R, and the election before that ect.. I think you would see nearly all voters will play hard to get, but most often fall one way or the other.

    • #23
    • October 4, 2012, at 4:34 AM PDT
    • Like
  24. ConservativeWanderer Inactive
    JT Friedman
    Paul A. Rahe

    How do you explain to yourself Jay Cost’s chart? · 1 hour ago

    The chart is based on Gallop poll, which relies upon a stranger asking random potential voters who they “plan” to vote for. A more accurate measure is see who same person for voted last election and if they voted D or R, and the election before that ect.. I think you would see nearly all voters will play hard to get, but most often fall one way or the other. · 19 minutes ago

    And how, specifically, do you quantify that while maintaining the privacy of the voting booth?

    Why, you have a stranger ask random voters questions.

    • #24
    • October 4, 2012, at 4:56 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. JT Friedman Inactive
    ConservativeWanderer
    JT Friedman
    Paul A. Rahe

    How do you explain to yourself Jay Cost’s chart? · 1 hour ago

    The chart is based on Gallop poll, which relies upon a stranger asking random potential voters who they “plan” to vote for. A more accurate measure is see who same person for voted last election and if they voted D or R, and the election before that ect.. I think you would see nearly all voters will play hard to get, but most often fall one way or the other. · 19 minutes ago

    And how, specifically, do you quantify that while maintaining the privacy of the voting booth?

    Why, you have a stranger ask random voters questions. · 12 hours ago

    There has been some research that tried to do just that. I believe they interviewed the same voters year after year through multiple elections. Found that they almost always vote the same way… if they vote. 

    • #25
    • October 4, 2012, at 5:44 AM PDT
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  26. Grendel Member

    Anyone else notice that according to the chart, in 7 of 9 elections, it was the loser who made big gains to close the gap? The exceptions: Reagan in 1980 came on from a tie to win, and Bush in 2000 came from behind. Granted, McGovern and Mondale barely scratched the incumbents’ nearly 30-point leads.

    FWIW, the leader at this point has been the winner. Our only hope (besides skewed poll results) is that this year seems most like 1980. If it is, it will confirm that BHO has been Jimmy Carter’s second term.

    • #26
    • October 4, 2012, at 8:10 AM PDT
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