WASHINGTON, DCAccording to Gallup Poll results released Monday, 6 percent of Americans are still undecided about whether to vote against President Bush or Democratic challenger John Kerry in November's presidential election.
"At first, I was really leaning toward voting against Kerry, because the way he tried to hide his ambivalence about his military service made him seem like a political operator," poll participant and Trenton, NJ resident Amber Barthelme said. "But then, the Bush Administration's mishandling of the Iraqi prisoner-abuse scandal got me thinking that there's a lot to not like about the current administration. It's almost impossible to decide which side I don't want to be on."
According to the poll, 46 percent of the registered voters surveyed would vote against Bush if the election were held tomorrow, while 45 percent said they were ready to vote against Kerry. Factoring in the 2 percent margin of error, the two candidates are essentially deadlocked in the race to determine which candidate America doesn't support.
Researcher Jack Harmon, an analyst for the independent Beltway think tank the Dewey-Markham Institute, said these undecided Americans will be crucial in deciding the next election.
"As the messy occupation of Iraq drags on, Bush's approval rating continues to drop, strengthening the position of the anti-Bush voting bloc," Harmon said. "This trend is offset by the Bush camp's $80 million anti-Kerry ad campaign, which has cemented anti-Kerry sentiment in several key swing states. As the election approaches, it's becoming more and more difficult to determine the likely loser."
Harmon said voters are conflicted, wanting to cast environmental and antiwar votes against Bush, but wishing also to oppose Kerry's position on taxation.
"The two major parties face a tough struggle," Harmon said. "As the election approaches, both must convince undecided voters that the opposing party's candidate is worse than their own. As both parties take more moderate positions in an election year, it's getting harder to convince citizens that there's a reason to get out there and vote against anyone."
Brad Thomas, a Louisiana machinist, is one of many Americans who have yet to decide whom they'll vote against.
"I'd like to say I'm against Bush because he lied about weapons of mass destruction," Thomas said. "On the other hand, Kerry's lack of substantive positions really disgusts me, as well."
Tina Schalek, a Branson, MO theater manager, said she is also undecided.
"John Kerry's only virtue is that he hasn't been in a position to make any major mistakes," Schalek said. "On the other hand, I hate Bush's views on abortion. My only consolation is that a vote against either candidate is a vote against Nader."
In spite of such ambivalence among swing voters, surveys reveal that the majority of Americans have determined which candidate they will vote against.
"It's time to trim the Bush from the White House," Akron, OH resident Doug Hamm said. "In 2004, it's time for Bush to get bushwhacked!"
Pressed to elaborate on his views, Hamm said, "To be honest, Kerry could be a guy with a paper bag over his head, for all I care. I'd vote for anybody as long as he wasn't Bush."
Karla Barr of Chicago had similarly strong opinions about Kerry.
"Kerry is a wishy-washy flip-flopper, changing his tune every time the wind blows," Barr said, repeating a phrase she'd heard on The Rush Limbaugh Show. "Can I trust a man who can't make up his mind about Communism? I don't think so."
Added Barr: "We have to remember how close the 2000 election was, when we voted against Gore. Actually, to be fair, when I voted against Gore, I was voting against Clinton."