5 Factors That Will Decide Who Wins the 2010 Elections

Now everything comes down to how the “late deciders” will vote in the races that are still close.

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Like Christmas, the 2010 election is almost here.

Now everything comes down to how what we who were once in the business referred to as “late deciders” will vote in the races that are still close--like the U.S. Senate races in California, Nevada, and Washington state, the governor’s races in Connecticut and Oregon, and countless U.S. House races in every part of the country.

[See a slide show of 11 hot races.]

These are not the folks who knew how they were going to vote in this election as soon as Obama won the last one. They are typically “soft” partisans, generally affiliated but not politically active. They may even think of themselves as “independents.” They are still undecided about the close races and have not yet decided if they are going to vote at all. They just know there’s an election on and they’re supposed to make a choice.

In their hands rests the balance of power in Washington and more than a few states.

Pollsters Chris Wilson and Bryon Allen of Wilson Research Strategies have put together a list of indices worth studying if you’re a political junkie and want to see if you can best the experts at their own game by trying to guess what the “late deciders” will do.

According to Wilson and Allen:

  1. Partisans break toward their party. “This is particularly true when we’re talking about self-identification--where voters are affirming their alignment--rather than registration, where some voters may be disaffected from their party but not have changed their registration.”
  2. Independents tend to break in the same direction as the trend. “If partisans are relatively stable, Independents are not. Their feelings about the party in power are what drive the overall trend. Late deciding Independents are even more likely than others to make simple decisions based on their feelings about the direction of the country and the party in power.”
  3. Late deciders break for challengers. “Late deciding voters know much more about incumbents than their challengers and make their decision based on whether or not they want to return the incumbent to office.” If they haven’t decided to stay with the incumbent by now, Wilson and Allen say, “they are likely to vote for the challenger.”
  4. Habitual voters vote while those who vote less frequently will turn out in smaller numbers. “Many pollsters include an intensity of interest measure in their polls. These should be used with caution because voters who vote in pretty much every election are going to turn out this year too, regardless of how disinterested or frustrated they are.”
  5. Name Identification--or Name ID--matters. “While this rarely makes a difference in high-profile races where both candidates are well-known, in down-ballot races simply having built name awareness can sometimes push a candidate to victory if voters have nothing else on which to base a decision.”
  6. After months and months of anticipation the big day is finally about to arrive. Which means the spinners will be out in force, whirling like dervishes and feverously explaining who is up, who is down, why, and what it all means for the future of the republic. Now you know as much as they do.

    • Check out our editorial cartoons on the 2010 campaigns.
    • Follow the money in Congress.
    • See a slide show of 11 hot races.