INSIDE THE BELTWAY: This election is being held hostage by the elusive 'swing voter,' who ultimately may not even vote

With voters set to head to the polls in what has been the country's closest presidential election in 40 years, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush are scrambling to capture the elusive 'swing voter.'

With voters set to head to the polls in what has been the country's closest presidential election in 40 years, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush are scrambling to capture the elusive 'swing voter.'

With voters set to head to the polls in what has been the country's closest presidential election in 40 years, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush are scrambling to capture the elusive 'swing voter.'

Both men are busy stumping in the same small universe of battleground states, pitching their ideas on education and healthcare to a tiny sliver of the political universe. But is the constant wooing of swing voter 2000 really worth it?

Pollsters tell us that undecided voters, who represent between five and 25% of the electorate, will decide the election. But they also say that many of these voters aren't paying attention to politics and are the least likely to vote.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press divided undecided voters into two categories - attentive and inattentive.

While attentive swing voters, those paying attention to the campaign, were just as likely to vote as undecided voters and preferred Gore, inattentive voters, were less likely to vote and evenly divided between Gore and Bush.

The study found that 63% of so-called inattentive swing voters were women, while 60% had less than a high school education and more than half had incomes under dollars 40,000. By contrast, the attentive swing voters were mostly men who were better educated and more affluent. More of these undecided voters identified themselves as Democrats, yet the study found that more swing voters who lean towards Gore might still change their mind.

But given their non-involvement in the campaign and probability of not voting, why are swing voters getting so much attention? Swing voter 2000 has been the star of this presidential campaign, with endless polls attempting to chronicle his wildly fluctuating opinions and myriad focus groups giving voice to his whims.

Cropping up on every television channel following this year's presidential debates, 'real voter' focus groups are the political version of trendy reality-based programming. But do we really want to know what Richard Hatch from Survivor or any member of the Big Brother cast thinks about Gore or Bush?

I think candidates would do better to concentrate on turning out their base on Election Day. It is the black voters who supported Bill Clinton in droves who could elect Gore tomorrow, or the Christian voters who were disaffected by Republican compromise in 1998 who could make the difference for Bush.

The only swing voters who matter are the ones who have been paying attention and care about what's at stake.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

Would you like to post a comment?

Please Sign in or register.