Dear Presidential Campaign Managers and Media Consultants,
We don’t envy you. Over the next couple months, you have to figure out how to spend millions of dollars to influence the mere 7 to 10% of the electorate (depending on whose polls you believe) – in just a handful of states – who remain Undecided. That’s a ton of money to move a tiny fraction of the population, who, from what we can tell, aren’t easy to reach by traditional means (phone, email, or TV).
But maybe we can help. We studied 11,455 Undecided voters we identified in our system, which, incidentally, reflect 7% of the 191,068 respondents to our Obama vs. Romney question. We analyzed those individuals on 152 possible profile characteristics to find the traits that were most predictive of an “Undecided.” We also analyzed their sentiment toward 149 of the largest US brands among automakers, restaurants, banks, big box retail chains, clothing labels, and shoe companies. In all, 99 attributes surfaced as highly-predictive.
The key take-away is that these “Undecideds” are tough nuts to crack. Not only are they NOT opinionated on just about everything but they also consume less media (aside from Facebook*) than their “Decided” counterparts. Good luck finding and winning these people over.
WHO THEY ARE
The first thing you need to know – which, to a large extent, we suspect you do – is what these people look like. Here are a few of the basics:
- They’re more female. 62% of Undecideds are female, compared to only 55% of Decideds.
- They’re younger. Undecideds are 25% more likely to be under age 55.
- They’re most likely NOT Black. Black voters are twice as likely to be Decided than Undecided.
- They’re less formally-educated. Undecideds are 42% more likely to list “High School or GED” as the highest level of education they’ve attained and 50% less likely to have an advanced degree.
- They make less income. 46% of Undecided voters live in households that make less than $50,000/year, compared to just 35% of Decideds.
- They have less retirement savings. Undecideds are 20% less likely than Decideds to have any kind of IRA, pension fund or other retirement savings.
- They’re more likely to be young parents. Undecideds are 15% more likely than Decideds to have school-aged children living with them.
- But they’re also less likely to be married. Undecideds are 23% more likely to be divorced or “separated” from their spouse.
- They’re more likely to be unemployed. Undecideds are 37.5% less likely to have a job and 13% less likely to be retired, a student, or a homemaker.
- They’re less likely to own a home. 64% of Undecideds own a home versus 70% of Decideds.
- They don’t own guns. Undecided voters are 23% less likely than Decideds to own a gun.
WHAT THEY DON’T LIKE
1) They don’t like to vote very often and they don’t donate to campaigns. Few things were more predictive of an Undecided than asking if they ever contributed to a campaign. Only 22% of Undecideds have donated, compared to 48% of Decideds. It’s hard to even tell how many of the Undecideds will actually turn out to vote. A full 25% of registered Undecideds say they “Rarely or Never” vote and 20% say they are “not at all likely” to vote in November. So, now you’re pulling from an even smaller group.
2) They don’t read political websites or blogs. Only 18% of Undecideds read political blogs on a regular basis, compared to 38% of Decideds. Put another way, 66% of Undecideds “never” read political blogs versus only 45% of Decideds.
3) They don’t watch much cable news, except maybe CNN. Only 49% of Undecideds watch any of the big three cable news networks (Fox, CNN, MSNBC) versus 61% of Decideds. Of the Undecideds who do watch cable news, half watch CNN. Only 7% watch MSNBC, and 19% watch Fox News.
4) They don’t watch sports. Undecideds are NOT avid sports fans, to say the least. Only 27% of Undecideds follow the NFL compared to 45% of Decideds. 20% watch college football and 16% follow the NBA, versus 32% and 25% of Decideds, respectively.
5) They don’t travel very much. 62% of Decided voters say they have left the continent at least once and 73% have been to more than 10 US states. Conversely, only 51% of Undecideds have left the continent and only 60% have been to more than 10 US states.
6) They don’t use a lot of technology or devices. This is a long list but worth it. Undecideds are 25% less likely to download music or movies online. This is probably because they are 20% less likely to have broadband Internet or satellite TV service. They’re 10% less likely to be addicted to digital devices and 3X less likely to have any devices at all. Only 19% of Undecideds own a tablet or E-reader, compared to 30% of Decideds. They also check email, use Twitter, and clear cookies on their computers much less often than their Decided peers.
7) They don’t wake up early in the morning, especially to go to the gym. Undecideds are 20% less likely to wake up from 6-8am and 40% more likely than Decideds to wake up after 8am. Interestingly, Undecideds are also 20% less likely to exercise regularly.
8) They don’t read a lot of non-fiction, or books of any kind for that matter. Only 36% of Undecideds prefer non-fiction books, 19% less than Decideds. 21% say they read no books at all, compared to just 13% of Decideds.
9) They don’t own, answer, or take polls on landline telephones. Only 65% of Undecideds own a land-phone, compared to 68% of Decideds, and only 62% say they have ever responded to a telephone poll.
10) They don’t have a very positive view of the economy, particularly the housing market. Only 18% of Undecideds believe the economy will get better over the next 6 months, compared to 29% of Decideds. They are also more than 2X more likely to characterize their personal financial situation as “poor.” 49% of Undecideds believe it’s a good time to purchase a home, compared to 63% of Decideds.
WHAT THEY LOVE
1) They like to watch CBS and ABC for network programming, if they watch it at all. Undecideds are 42% more likely to watch CBS and 35% more likely to watch ABC than their Decided counterparts. But more Undecideds (29%) say they prefer NO network TV at all than any specific channel.
2) They love to spend time on Facebook and use check-in apps like Foursquare. Unlike other “new” technology, Undecideds are 10% more likely to belong to Facebook and 36% more likely to spend more than five hours per week on the site. At the far end of the spectrum, Undecideds are 75% more likely to spend more than 25 hours per week on Facebook. Similarly, Undecideds are 28% more likely than Decideds to use location-sharing apps like Foursquare.
3) They like to clean. Undecideds are almost twice as likely as Decideds to list “cleaning” as their favorite household chore. This happens at the expense of “cooking” where Undecideds are 10% less likely to name it as their favorite.
4) They like to go to the movies, especially 3D movies, Comedies, and Horror films. Undecideds are 30% more likely than Decideds to choose to watch 3D movies in the theater, when possible. When asked about their favorite movie genre, 42% of Undecideds list “Comedy” films, versus only 37% of Decideds. They are also 33% more likely to prefer Horror films and 40% LESS likely to pick Dramas.
5) They like to get their weather forecast from the television. 47% of Undecideds get their weather from TV, compared to 42% of Decideds. Only 44% of Undecideds get weather updates on their smart-phone or the Internet, while a full 53% of Decideds prefer these means.
6) They prefer to pay with cash. When asked what form of payment they use most for purchases, 30% of Undecideds say they prefer cash, a full 57% more than Decideds. Conversely, they are 37% less likely to pay with credit cards. As a side note, they are over 2X more likely than Decideds to “dislike” MasterCard but 30% more likely to “love” or “like” Visa. That one is a bit of a head-scratcher.
7) They love clothing retailers and fashion. Here’s another long list. Undecideds are 66% more likely to “love” Juicy Couture, twice as likely to love Dolce & Gabbana, American Eagle and Levi’s, four times more likely to love Hugo Boss, and 2.5X more likely to love Banana Republic. On a related note, they are 20% less likely to shop at any of these retailers online and 27% less likely to read online reviews before buying any product.
8) They love their non-luxury car brands. Undecideds are 2.5X more likely to love GM cars, 2X more likely to love Jeep, 63% more likely to love Toyota, 60% more likely to love Chevrolet, and 41% more likely to love Honda. As for Subaru, they are 27% more likely to have “no strong opinion” of the brand. Finally, on the flip-side, they are almost 2X more likely to “dislike” or “hate” BMWs.
9) They love Whole Foods and Starbucks. These run counter to what we would expect, given the socio-economic profile of the Undecided voter. Undecideds are twice as likely to say they “love” shopping at Whole Foods and 73% more likely to say they love to drink Starbucks coffee.
10) They like to pack their lunch and will be more likely to pack a Pepsi product. Not much to say other than that Undecideds are more likely than Decideds to choose Pepsi over Coke and less likely to eat lunch “out,” instead choosing to bring their lunch from home.