In a previous post, I commented that there appears to be a sizable chunk of survey respondents who choose not to select either of the presidential candidates the two main American political parties are choosing to nominate for the office of President of the United States of America.
In that previous post, I used the figures from three polls to highlight the rather large number of undecided voters. A Roanoke College survey from May showed that 24% of the Virginia respondents chose neither Donald Trump (Republican Party) nor Hillary Clinton (Democratic Party). A Quinnipiac poll in May in Ohio showed 17% would not select either major party candidate. Minnesota respondents, according to a Star-Tribune poll in April, all showed that 17% of survey-takers were undecided about how to cast their vote for.
While I ended that post by asking a series of questions such as “Who are the “undecided”?”, “What is their demographic breakdown?”, “What do they want?”, and “What will it take to make them decide one way or another (or a third way to a third-party candidate)?”, this post will come nowhere near to answering those inquiries.
Instead, I want to look at the number of undecided voters that have been surveyed and compare them with the last presidential election.
Since the start of 2016, there have been sixty-three polls taken in the ten of the thirteen states that comprise my Swing State Symphony. The missing three states are those whose latest polls are from 2015 (Colorado, Nevada) or who have not had a poll taken since the 2012 presidential election (New Mexico). The ten states that I have polling from are Florida (10 surveys), Iowa (2), Minnesota (2), Missouri (2), New Hampshire (11), North Carolina (11), Ohio (7), Pennsylvania (7), Virginia (4), and Wisconsin (7).
From these sixty-three surveys, I collected three sets of numbers.
One) The percentage of respondents who said they choose Donald Trump in a hypothetical election between himself and Hillary Clinton,
Two) The percentage of respondents who said they choose Hillary Clinton in such a hypothetical election
Three) The difference between the number 100 and the sum of Clinton supporters and Trump supporters.
As an example, the May 2016 Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey in North Carolina (as previously seen here on Swing State Symphony) showed 47% supporting Trump and 43% supporting Clinton. This means that my third category would be the number 10 (100-(47+43)), which is the percentage of respondents who chose neither the candidate from the Democratic Party nor the candidate from the Republican Party.
Now, this third category is a catch-all for my purposes in this post. Different surveys had different categories for the respondent who chose neither Trump nor Clinton. Regardless of whether the response was “undecided”, “unsure”, a named third-party candidate, or “refused to answer”, I am lumping all the neither-R-nor-D responses into one giant bucket I am calling “Not”.
These are the folks who are Not-Clinton and Not-Trump.
One question I wanted to answer was what is the percentage of Not respondents in these sixty-three surveys. Of these polls, the number of people who chose neither of the major party candidates ranged from a high of 36.9% (Dartmouth poll from New Hampshire in April; link to previous post here) to a low of 7% (NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll from Pennsylvania from April; full results here).
The median number of Not responders was 15%. The median is the number where half of the data points are above that figure and half is below that figure. I like the median better than the average (which, in this case, was 14.79%) for these types of situations because that’s just the type of person I am.
This median number for the Nots checks out because, from the same sixty-three polls, the median number of the percentage of respondents who would vote for Clinton is 45% and the median percentage number of respondents who would vote for Trump is 40%.
45+40+15 = 100
There’s such balance in math.
So now we have a median number of Not responders of fifteen percent. But how does this compare with an actual American presidential election?
I grant you that I will only be providing one example, but my answer to the above question is, “Not very well.”
In the 2012 American presidential election, only 1.7% of the voters made their selection for someone other than the candidate from the Republican Party (Mitt Romney) and the candidate from the Democratic Party (Barack Obama). Less than two percent cast their vote for the candidate from the Libertarian Party, Green Party, Constitution Party, Peace and Freedom Party, Justice Party, and America’s Party.
Barring any last-minute entrance from a well-known political figure, I am working under the assumption that the 1.7% figure from the 2012 election will hold for the 2016 election. What this means to me is that the 15% of Nots being tallied in swing state polls since the start of this year is fair game for both Trump and Clinton. I have not done a drill-down analysis that breaks down the demographics of the Nots to determine who would they be most likely to support. Though I don’t have the time, I would bet that data-crunchers within the Democratic Party and Republican Party organizations are being given all the time and resources they need to find out who the Nots are, where they are, how best to reach them, and what do they want.
That 15% will whittle down to between 1%-3% between now and November and the next occupant of the Oval Office may be the person who can get most of the Nots on their side.
I would call it a Not-y situation, but this blog is above such frayed pun-ditry.