They could turn a too-close-to-call race into a landslide for President Obama— but by definition they probably won’t.
Call them the unlikely voters.
A nationwide USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll of people who are eligible to vote but aren’t likely to do so finds that these stay-at-home Americans back Obama’s re-election over Republican Mitt Romney by more than 2-1. Two-thirds of them say they are registered to vote. Eight in 10 say the government plays an important role in their lives.
Even so, they cite a range of reasons for declaring they won’t vote or saying the odds are no better than 50-50 that they will: They’re too busy. They aren’t excited about either candidate. Their vote doesn’t really matter. And nothing ever gets done, anyway.
Many of these unlikely voters are suspicious of and disconnected from politics. In the survey, six in 10 say they don’t pay attention to politics because “nothing ever gets done”; 54% call politics “corrupt.” Only 39% could correctly name the vice president, Joe Biden. (By contrast, a Pew Research Center poll in 2010 found 59% of American adults could name the vice president.)
On the other hand, they do see a difference between the two major parties: 53% disagree with the statement that “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Democrats and Republicans.” Obama scores a huge advantage among all the unlikely voters. By 43%-18%, they support the Democratic incumbent over his Republican challenger.
“There’s this pool of people that Barack Obama doesn’t even need to persuade,” says David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, which took the survey. “All he needs to do is find them and identify them and get them to the polls. It’s like a treasure chest. But the bad news is that the treasure chest is locked. …