Who are these undecideds and swing voters?
Social commentator Jonathan Pontell points to Generation Jones. He coined the term, and it’s been gaining traction as a way to describe the population born between the years 1954 and 1965 — breaking out a group that had in the past been lumped together with Baby Boomers.
This election is the first with two candidates on each ticket who were born in this time frame, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin.
Yet this group is believed to represent the largest chunk of undecided voters, and these “Jones-ers” have yet to break either way. In 2004, they were the generation that cascaded toward George W. Bush in the final days and handed him the election, Pontell says.
Some of the characteristics of this group, aged 42 to 54: They lean Republican, and having cast their first votes during the 1980s, identified with Ronald Reagan. With the attention focused on the lives of older boomers, many have many unmet expectations for themselves. Gen Jones-ers also tend to hold conservative values, but economic concerns are now at the forefront, particularly those who are balancing the demands of young families (many having married later in life) and aging parents.
In 2004, Gen Jones men favored Bush, but women shifted back and forth between Kerry and Bush right up until the last few days of the election. In the end, a majority favored Bush, too.
It’s different this year. Gen Jones men and women are in play, Pontell notes, which is why he’s cautious about all the polling showing Obama leading.
“These men are traditionally very Republican, but because of the economy more than anything else, these men can be picked off by the Democrats,” he says.
Women, he said, “are clearly torn between gender and generation.”
Campaigns are trying their best to reach this generation. McCain has Joe the Plumber, who didn’t take long to seek to maximize his fame. And many of the hardship stories in Obama’s 30-minute infomercial were of people in this age range.
For those addicted to the tracking polls and electoral map, convinced of an Obama blowout, Pontell says this group of swing voters could very well lean toward McCain in the end.
“I am not convinced this race is over at all,” he says.