Who are the undecided voters? Many are still on fence with Biden and Trump, polls show

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The 2024 election is shaping up to be the first presidential rematch in more than 50 years, meaning voters will have unique insight into both major party candidates.

This time around, President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump — the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees — are known quantities, to put it mildly.

Voters have not only heard their campaign promises before, but they’ve seen how they led the country during their first terms. Both men have also been in the national spotlight for decades, with Biden as a long-time senator and Trump as a television personality.

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But, despite this unusual level of familiarity with the candidates, a significant minority of voters have not made up their minds, according to recent polling.

About 10% of swing state voters remain undecided, according to an April 2 poll from the Wall Street Journal. The poll, conducted between March 17 and 24, questioned 4,200 registered voters, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.

Nationwide, 10% of voters were also undecided in a March 7 poll from Emerson College. The poll, taken between March 5 and 6, sampled 1,350 voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.

Given the close nature of the race, these fence-sitting voters could play a crucial role in determining who will become the next president.

Who are the undecided voters?

Collectively, undecided voters in America compose a patchwork of varying demographics.

“The only characteristics that seem to be consistent among undecided voters is that they are younger, less educated, less wealthy, and less politically aware and engaged than partisans,” according to a 2022 analysis from New America, a left-leaning think tank.

People with little interest in politics have historically made up a significant portion of the undecided vote, Robert Shapiro, a professor of government at Columbia University, told McClatchy News.

“Many of the (undecided voters) haven’t paid attention nor thought much about the election,” Shapiro said.

About 20% of Americans say they don’t closely follow national political news, and 8% say they don’t follow it at all, according to an October Gallup poll.

The young also make up a key segment of the undecided voting bloc, according to a November 29 poll by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.

The poll, conducted between Oct. 25 and Nov. 2, found that nearly one-third of voters between 18 and 34 had not made up their minds about who they would be voting for.

But given the circumstances of this rematch election, the undecided contingent also includes “attentive” voters who don’t like Biden or Trump, Shapiro said.

This group likely includes many of the Democrats who voted “uncommitted” or an equivalent option in this year’s primaries, Shapiro said. These votes against Biden were seen by some as a protest against his handling of Israel’s war in Gaza.

Republicans who didn’t vote for Trump in the primaries may also make up some of the undecided vote seen in national polls, he said.

Importantly, some or many of these undecided voters — particularly those who are not plugged in to politics — may not vote at all, Shapiro said. They may also opt to cast their ballots for a third-party candidate.

In the future, revising the winner-take-all election system might help invigorate undecided voters who feel unrepresented, the New America analysis found.

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