Friday, October 15, 2004

Selection 2004: Likely Voters

Repeatedly, we’ve heard about polls of “Registered Voters” and “Likely Voters”.  I had kind of assumed that the latter term meant that the pollsters asked “Do you plan to vote on November 2?” and got some answer other than “No” or “If I get around to it.”

That’s not the case, however.  “Likely” actually means “voted in the 2000 election.”  Suddenly the polls of these people is shown in a different light, and the value of the polls becomes somewhat questionable.  “Likely” voters leaves out two important sets of people.
  • Those who could have voted in 2000 (were registered), but did not.  An oft-quoted statistic is that perhaps 4 million “Evangelical Christians” stayed home in 2000.  This is the group that Bush is trying to pull in via his stances on stem cell research, abortion, and gay marriage, and which assorted bishops and ministers are trying to fire up.
  • And then there are those who could not vote in 2000 but can now: especially young adults ages 18-22, and newly naturalized citizens.  Young people tend to vote the Democrat/liberal side more often, as do immigrants.  There will likewise be millions of these potential voters this year.
There’s no way of knowing just what percentage of each group will actually turn out to vote, nor who they will actually vote for (although we can probably guess for the Evangelical Christians), nor which group will be larger in the end, but with the believed very small set of “undecided” voters out there, these groups loom large in their power.

I have heard is that there has been a much greater volume of new voter registrations this year than in years past — significant enough that there’s one case under investigation of a company in Nevada gathering registrations and then discarding the Democrat ones rather than turning them all in — and that a lot of these registrations are coming from high schools and colleges.

Among other things, these kids are smart enough to see the potential for a draft looming.  I know that when I was their age, avoiding such would have been one of my big issues (as it clearly was for Bush when he was younger, and presumably to a degree for Kerry), and I would have tended toward the candidate less likely to institute such.  (And here, that would be the guy who is opposed to the war.)

Updated on May 19, 2011

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