As the presidential campaign enters the home stretch, each side is narrowly focusing its message on a very select group: movable voters — the undecided and those who may change their minds — in the battleground states.
According to ABC News polls, there are fewer movable voters at this stage than there were at the same time four years ago. Who are they? The polls show that there is no one single typical movable voter. They are less interested in the election than the firmly decided voters and are less likely to be paying attention to it.
Politically, they're less partisan: more likely to be independents, more likely to be moderates (62 percent compared with 48 percent of the definites), and less likely to be conservatives. They're a bit younger than voters overall — 45 percent are younger than 40, compared with 29 percent of definites — and more likely to say that the economy is their main concern (40 percent versus 29 percent of committed voters). And by a very slim margin, they tend to be single men.
On a quiet tree-lined street in this old industrial city in Pennsylvania, a state where polls show the race a dead heat, two undecided voters live side by side.
Aaron White is 33, never been married, and works as a systems analyst for a pharmaceutical company. He was once a registered Democrat, but is now registered as a Libertarian.
Beth Buechler is 44, divorced, a mother of three and works as a secretary at Muhlenberg College's art department. She's a registered Republican.
Both voted to elect George W. Bush in 2000, but say they are unlikely to vote for him again this fall.
"He didn't seem as arrogant as he does now," says Buechler. "I felt like he was in touch with us."
"I thought George Bush was very strong when I voted for him in 2000," says White. "After 9/11 I was really behind our president. I thought he was doing a great job of holding our country together. I thought he was taking proper action to defend our country." Now, he says, "I think there are other people behind him pulling strings and that he's not the strong character we thought he was."
For both White and Buechler, the breaking point with Bush was the war with Iraq.
"The invasion of Iraq was a big switcheroo the president pulled on the American public," White says, "and I don't think we've gotten a satisfactory explanation why he invaded Iraq."
But while they are both disenchanted with the president, neither yet feels comfortable with the Democratic nominee.
"I'm reasonably certain that I'm not going to vote for George Bush … but I have a lot of trouble voting for John Kerry," White says. "I need for him to give me a clear vision of what he plans to do instead [of Bush]. And I really don't feel I've gotten that."
"I don't know much about him," Buechler says of Kerry. "I want to know how he's going to get us out of Iraq. I want to know how he's going to balance the budget. … I don't know how John Kerry is going to handle those issues."
More Than the Lesser of Two Evils
Neither feels that either campaign's message is helping them much.
"Whether George Bush had a mediocre career when he was in the air guard is not an issue to me," White says. "And whether John Kerry fought valiantly in Vietnam or had a desk job. That's not really the issue. The issue is attacking one another over it and that doesn't impress me at all."
"It's just been a lot of negativity," says Buechler. "I think that's one of the main reasons I'm really undecided. … I need to hear some specifics."
Both want to hear specifics in the presidential debates and want very much to find a reason to vote for one candidate rather than against the other.
"I just don't want to vote for the lesser of two evils," says White. "I think it's really unfortunate that it may come down to that."
Gary Langer and Dalia Sussman of the ABC News Polling Unit contributed to this report. This story aired on Sept. 25 on Good Morning America.