Undecided or unaffiliated voters: The dream catch for candidates

Who is the undecided voter?

Flipping through cable channels, leafing through magazines –even going to the mail box and coming back with an armful of campaign material– is enough to inform the average person that it’s campaign season, leaving me to wonder about those supposed “undecided persons.” Are they real, or were they created to give hope to the countless campaign advisers that there may still be hope to win their candidates more people?

I scoffed when I first heard that Senator John Kerry and President George W. Bush were debating in a town hall meeting in front of undecided individuals. I thought, “Maybe they mixing up the words ‘undecided’ and ‘unaffiliated?'”

I’m a “no party affiliation” (NPA) person myself– born of a Republican mother and a Democrat father– and haven’t felt the urgency to declare a party yet. I receive information from both parties, and I don’t usually vote party lines. Could I be the target “undecided voter?”

According to Division of Elections, Florida Department of Elections, there are 103,110 NPA people who vote in Hillsborough County. No wonder Florida has been such a battleground state. If either side could win the NPA vote, those numbers could tip the balance of Florida electoral votes.

Even if there are only four to six percent of “real” undecided people, as polls suggest, that is still enticing for either candidate.

Susan MacManus, a USF political science professor, said she thinks that some people are undecided, but some people who were interviewed by pollsters said they were undecided because they didn’t want to share which candidate they want to vote.

“There are always a few who are not politically attentive,” she said, “but those (doing research) to make up their minds are the rarest of all.”

So who are these “undecideds?” The Gallup Organization’s polls suggest they are mostly female and are of two types: either they don’t like either candidate, or they don’t know what’s happening in the world of politics, like MacManus said. Personally, I don’t see how anyone could be oblivious to the campaign blitz, but it is the fall semester. Maybe all the students are studying hard?

In case intense studying has caused USF students to not know anything about the candidates, I will provide a brief study guide about what each major candidate says he will do for students.

“They’re doing a better job of (attracting students) this time,” MacManus said, “even though the USF straw poll (done on Oct. 12) suggested students don’t think they do enough.”

But MacManus said the people most likely to get students to vote are their friends and classmates, not people totally different from them.

So consider this my public service — getting other students to vote.

John Kerry

On his campaign Web site, www.johnkerry.com, Kerry says he intends to make college education affordable and available to all. On the issues page, it goes on to say, “As president, John Kerry will offer a fully refundable College Opportunity Tax credit on up to $4,000 of tuition for every year of college and offer aid to states that keep tuitions down. And he will launch a new effort to ensure that all of our workers can get the technical skills and advanced training they need.”

Kerry has also said he supports health care for all. He says he will provide “access to the range of high-quality, affordable plans available to members of Congress and extend coverage to 95 percent of Americans.”

George W. Bush

President Bush lists his plans for education on his Web site, www.georgewbush.com. He said he wants to increase the funding available for students so that they can attend college by giving low-income students $1,000 more in Pell Grant funding provided they complete the rigorous courses required by the State Scholars program. He also wants to extend AmeiCorp educational funds to 75,000 full-time members, giving each member $4,725 to pay for college or graduate degrees.

As for health care, Bush included affordable health care in his list of health priorities. He wants there to be tax-free Health Savings Accounts (HAS) so that Americans can “own and control their own health care.” He is also in favor of promoting a HAS tax credit for employees working for small businesses.

The final step … seeing celebrities?

If researching takes too much time, there are always the celebrities who visit campus. Granted, not that many Republican celebrities have spoken at USF, but I suppose it could happen.

“Getting younger people to vote is part of what celebrity visits are for because people are attracted to being around celebrities. That’s human nature,” MacManus said. “They try to get students to share with others their experience because the candidates can’t be everywhere at once and are surrogates to the next best thing.”