Swing Voters, Please Explain Yourselves

First of all, do you exist?

Seriously, what exactly is a swing voter? People seem to talk about attracting swing voters as “going after the middle”. Are swing voters people in the exact center, who see themselves as being to the right of the Democrats and to the left of the Republicans?

Or are they people who see no basis for prefering one of the big two over the other? Seems to me that people who feel this way would not necesarily be middle of the roaders; they could be just about anyplace on the political spectrum. And aren’t the people who dislike both parties about equally usually non-voters?

One theory: Are swing voters people who believe in voting for the person rather than the party? People who vote for the candidate who seems best regardless of party? If so, how can one “go after” them? Their basis of choice could be anything. The only way to attract them would be to try to come across as more honest, moral, experienced, trustworthy, etc, than one’s oponent, and don’t all candidates do this anyway?

Swing voters aren’t necessarily “moderates” or whatever. Politics is very complicated, and encompasses a broad spectrum of different issues.

Think of it this way: If someone were, say, in favor of both Gun Ownership and Gay Marriage, well, those are two issues that, traditionally, have been supported by opposite parties. If that person were to vote in an election where one candidate supported gun ownership but opposed gay marriage, and the other candidate supported gay marriage but stayed pretty mum on the gun issue, the person would probably vote for the latter candidate.

You’ll never find a candidate that agrees with all of your own personal opinions… just a candidate that comes close.

The simple fact is that a great many people vote a straight party line. These are the safe voters.

But you get someone who votes Republican one election and Democratic the next and you’ve got a classic ‘swing’ voter. And it tends to be those people who decide an election (at least currently where things are split so evenly). Appealing to these people can be tricky for a candidate. One needs to calculate which stances will move voters your way without forcing others into your opponents camp.

It’s tricky.

Yes, I do. :smiley:

I believe I’m defined by the pollsters as a swing voter: I have voted for Democrats and Republicans, and refuse to belong to any political party. I used to be someone who voted for the candidate who struck me as the best person. The political party that the person belonged to didn’t really matter. Part of the reason for this is that I grew up in Massachusetts in the 70’s and 80’s. There was no Republican party, really, just different shades of Democrats. As I’ve gotten mroe and more disgusted with NY State politics I’m going to be voting, this year a straight KBO ticket - anti incumbency. (20 years and counting, for late budgets - and still no budget this year, and Silver and Bruno and Pataki all say their part of the government isn’t broken. :eek: Yeah, right.)

I’ve not made up my mind for the Federal elections, yet, but I’ll look at the individual candidate’s position on the issues, and make my decision based on that. And my own interpretation of how to deal with them - whichever candidate is closest to what I want, I’ll vote for.

I hope that offers some insight for you, Hazel.

Any other year, I would define myself as a swing voter, though to be honest I’m currently registered Democrat, I’ve also registered Independent. I have however voted Republican in a number of elections, though usually more on the statewide rather than Nationally. Most notably I voted for B. Boxers challenger in the last election because he like me would like to see an end to the drug war and had the guts to say so. It really depends on isssues I think are important to me.

For any given issue or candidiate, there are voters who can pretty well be counted on to vote for one side or the other – their minds are essentially made up, they’re not likely to change their minds, and their leanings are known. Then there are the voters who haven’t clearly come down on one side or the other, who possibly are still forming a decision and could go either way. In many cases, their votes (as a group) have the potential to decide the election – and it could swing either way.

Example: 35% support candidate A, while 40% support candidate B. Neither candidate has enough support from these groups to definitely win. How the votes of the other 25% are cast will decide the winner. There’s little if anything to be gained by appealing to the first two groups – those folks are either already for you or deaf to your pleas. The logical thing is to appeal to the third group in hope of swinging their vote to your side.

Not all of us buy into the notion that the line that between Democratic Party and Republican Party platforms is the only line that one’s political perspective can be found on.

In terms of civil liberties, individual freedoms, private behaviors of citizens, I’m “prochoice” on everything. Government, butt out.

That’s as long as it isn’t behavior that genuinely victimizes other people. My voting behavior, and attitude, towards protective legislation is complicated and hard to predict. Draconian inflexible approaches like three-strikes laws repel me but under certain circumstances I favor “will-arrest” laws or other laws designed to prevent a behavior from happening rather than fining someone for engaging in it. Sell me on an idea, I might vote for you.

Economically, I’m cynical and highly critical of the raw unfettered market economy but wary of stupid redistributivist schemes. I’m a fiscal conservative in the sense that I want government to tax no less than they spend, to spend no more than they tax. Explain to me why your economic politics sucks less than the pisspoor ideas generally embraced by the two main parties and I might vote for you. Or just tout a balanced budget and fiscal responsibility and a lack of interest in messing with the rest of it and I’ll at least not vote against you for economic policy reasons.

I’d like to see profound change enacted slowly and carefully, inspired by a vision of how things could be different. That doesn’t tend to happen. Most of our politicians have a very short attention span, or else they only seek to communicate with voters who have a very short attention span, so they address themselves to the issues of the day without developing a philosophy that informs me about how they’d respond to various possible issues of tomorrow if they were to come up. Give me reason to believe that in your ___ years of public office you hope to do something besides occupy it and prepare for your reelection and I’m listening: I may decide you’re extremely dangerous or I might volunteer to help your campaign in some fashion.

I’m always gonna vote for someone, but believe me, the wells of my enthusiasm are seldom tapped. Show me why you oughta get my vote.

(registered as independent)

I always thought swing voters were essentially just undecided at the time of interest.

I guess I’m a swing voter; I’ve voted for Dems and Republicans (though I’m registered Democrat). I pay a lot of attention and put thought into my vote, but I’m also something of a cynic. I dislike both parties and think they’re almost equally awful, and I usually wind up voting for the candidate and issues I hate least. If I manage to find someone I respect and want to support, it’s usually someone who hasn’t really got a chance.

My personal ideas don’t line up well with either party, but I also wouldn’t call myself ‘middle-of-the-road.’

That’s it in a nutshell. It’s someone whose vote could swing either way for a particular issue or candidate at a particular time. Thus one might be a swing voter with respect to the senatorial race while at the same time being a decided voter for the bond issue. Campaigns hope to turn swing voters into decided voters – for their side.

I’m a swing voter. I vote each candidate based on performance and how close she/he comes to my personal politics. I dislike Kerry, but my disappointment with Bush is a larger factor, this election; four years ago, my dislike of Gore trumped my disgust with the pathetic Republican. I have never voted a straight party ticket, and find the idea of doing repugnant.

I believe they are people who vote for the best candidate…not necessarily along party lines. I think Liberal said he’s bailing on Bush because of his hideous record as president. Most people generally stay along their preferred party lines at the polls, but if someone is falling so short of the party standard that you feel you can’t vote for him or her, you shouldn’t feel bad about jumping ship.

There should be a big bowl at the polling station where swing voters can drop their keys.

“Swing Voters” remind me of those people who will wait in line for 25 minutes at Burger King and when they finally get to the head of the line, and the pimply faced kid says, “what do you want?” they suddenly look up at the menu and say, “hmm, what do I want…?”

Has there ever been an election like this year - where the choice between the candidates is so black or white? Can there be more opposite ends of the spectrum? I mean, seriously…what the fuck is wrong with you people?

It is truly a sorry state of affairs when an election is so close that dumbass “swing voters” who obviously haven’t got a clue may determine the outcome.

“Hey, look Earl! He’s wearing a shiny pin! I think I’ll vote for him fur Presidunt, yepsir, I think I will…”

What about 2000? Al Gore, smart but boring as sin, vs. George W. Bush, “the dumbest man alive” (according to Aaron McGruder).

If anything, this election is almost a do-over of the 2000 election, except Kerry’s hair is worse than Gore’s, and we’ve seen what life under a Bush presidency is like. Shudder At least Joe Lieberman is nowhere in sight, thank Primus…

Replace “wearing a shiny pin” with “promising me a $200 rebate”, and you’ve summarized the last election.

DMark, your local says you’re at least partially from NYC. Can you honestly tell me that you think that the NYS government is working? 20 years without an on time budget; the State Attorney general suing a school commissioner for having the balls to not turn in his own budget until he knows what the state funding is going to be; the Assembly Speaker is opposing any measure to allow for ballot referenda, because we’re already well represented in the Assembly and Senate - while the Assembly Speaker, and the Senate Majority Leader have an absolute lock on which bills actually get voted upon; It’s been over a hundred days since the legally mandated budget was officially late, and at the moment nothing is being done to even try to get a new budget worked on. My state Assemblywoman is a Democrat, and my state Senator is a Republican. So, according to your logic I should be voting for the incumbent Assemblywoman, and against the incumbent Senator because of the Presidential election?

Who’s the dumbass, now?

I guess I too, could be considered a swing voter (In a swing state no less).

My lack of a predetermined choice in an election isn’t due to a lack of interest, but because my political views aren’t well represented by either the Democrats or the Republicans. My candidate choice is based on who I feel best represents my views, not what party he belongs to. Under most circumstances I would vote republican, but being as the current republican party doesn’t really represent true conservative values, I won’t be voting for them this year.

As someone who is socially rather liberal (from a civil liberties standpoint) but fiscally very conservative (believing in small government) I’ll vote for whatever party comes closest. Since the current administration has seen fit to, IMO, trample on civil liberties while also plunging us into huge deficits, I will be voting democrat.

And to think I helped vote them in :smack:

Wow, very interesting posts!

It looks like voting for the better (or less bad) candidate regardless of party is the main reason to swing.

It looks like an important facor is not fitting into some one little niche of the spectrum. Makes sence. If on some issues, you side with the right; on some, with the left, the result could be that you would not feel that one party was a better choice than the other. Therefore… vote for the candidate, regardless of party.

I don’t fit into a niche either, but I’ve always seen the Democrats as preferable to the Republicans. More so with the passage of time. Since the Republicans took up with the religious right, I’ve turned more against them.

I tend to agree. This election is about one thing: do we or do we not accept the actions of the Bush administration during their time in office? I don’t see how anyone could be on the fence about this administration. Be you Repub, Dem, Independent or never registered, shouldn’t you, by now, know quite surely if you do / do not want the Bush administration to have another four years? If you do not want to put a rubber stamp of approval on the actions of this administration by returning it to office, you vote for the Dem candidate, even if you don’t much like him.

Lifelong members of one party often feel that they just can’t vote for the other party, even if they actually prefer the other party’s candidate. Swing voters presumably never have this problem, not being allied with either party. Plainly, swing voters do exist. But, this election, are any of them still undecided? Could anyone at all, swinger or committed party member, still be undecided?

I think we’re talking about two different definitons of the swing voter. My definition of a swing voter is someone who doesn’t vote a party ticket - so talking about a single race seems a little odd. To my mind the opposite of a swing voter isn’t a voter who has decided how he or she will vote in the coming presidential election, but a voter who votes a straight party ticket, no matter what.

This doesn’t mean that I think all swing voters have made up their minds who they plan to vote for, just that the finality of their decision or lack of it is not what makes them ‘swing’.