Will undecideds break for Mitt?

The Romney campaign hopes they'll swing the election. It may be out of luck

Topics: Bill Clinton, Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, Elections 2012, The American Prospect, 2012 Elections, Undecided voters,

Will undecideds break for Mitt? (Credit: AP/Charles Dharapak)
This article originally appeared on The American Prospect.

The American Prospect One piece of zombie conventional wisdom — it comes up every election — is the idea that undecided voters will always break for the challenger. It’s what gives hope to Republicans in this race, who assume that the last-minute decisions of undecided voters will push Mitt Romney to the top. Unfortunately for Republicans, there just isn’t much evidence for this assertion.

Yes, there are elections where undecided voters broke decisively for the challenger: 1980 for Ronald Reagan, 1992 for Bill Clinton. But by and large, undecided voters tend to break evenly, with a slight advantage for the challenger. This past summer, FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver tried to quantify this trend. What he found was that the incumbent party candidate — George H.W. Bush in 1988, or Al Gore in 2000 — gains an average of 3.5 points between the September polls and his actual performance on Election Day. The challenger gains slightly more — 3.9 points. Among true incumbents, like Obama, the numbers are a little better for the challenger, but not by much.

You Might Also Like

More significant than this gain is the fact that challengers tend to lag considerably behind the incumbent for most of the year, and then make up ground after the conventions. Taken together, what this suggests is that what we’re witnessing with the “challenger rule” is a simple reversion to the mean, where candidates begin to pick up the support they should have had in the first place. This is more or less what happened with the Mitt Romney surge that followed the first presidential debate. As many others have pointed out, Romney’s gains began before October 3 — his debate win was a boost, not a jump start.

As for what will happen with the remaining undecideds over the next six days? Using data from three recent YouGov national surveys, political scientist John Sides predicts an even split, 50.1 percent for Obama, versus 49.9 percent for Romney:

A small number of other respondents (3%) indicated that they will vote for a third-party candidate. If we include them along with undecided voters — assuming that at least some third-party voters will end up voting for a major-party candidate — then the prediction is 52% Obama and 48% Romney.

There’s no reason to expect a late surge of undecideds or independents for Mitt Romney. At this point, Romney’s best bet is turnout; if he can supercharge his voters, or if Democrats fail to come out to the polls, then Romney has a real chance. Otherwise, Obama has the advantage.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 1

    Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

    Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 2

    A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

    Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 3

    Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

    Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 4

    Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

    Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 5

    On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

    Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 6

    Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

    Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 7

    Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

    Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 8

    The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

    Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 9

    Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

    Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

    National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

    Slide 10

    This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>