Read the rest of the Swingers series.
With the election just a week away, both campaigns are making their final arguments to voters. The details differ, but the basic message is the same: This election is all about you. Far be it from us to shatter anyone's illusions.
In reality, this election is not about just any old average voter anymore—if it ever was in the first place. As the clock ticks down, both the Obama and McCain campaigns are making a final push to win over a very small slice of remaining swing voters.
Which raises the question: Are you a swing voter? Being undecided is not enough, in itself, for membership. In fact, very few Americans, at this late hour, still qualify for the club. Think you have what it takes? Slate's handy Swing Voter Calculator can help you figure out whether you make the cut.
As Slate's John Dickerson wrote last month, the state you live in is by far the most important factor in whether the campaigns will give you any love. Your personal characteristics could make you the swingiest of swingers, based on opinion polls of people like you—but if you live in Alabama, you're simply not worth the campaigns' time at this late hour. That's the reality of the Electoral College system, and for that reason the calculator weighs your home state more heavily than anything else.
At the same time, not all swing voters are created equal. Florida may be close in the polls, but if you're a black woman with a postgraduate degree, you lose serious points on the swing scale. (Such voters tend to favor Obama by a wide margin.) Late in the game, it also matters whether there are a lot of people like you in your state, a figure represented by the blue meter at the top, which is set to a default of 33 percent—roughly the average value for the many different combinations of characteristics. The campaigns need to be as efficient as possible with only a few days left, and they don't have time to go after small pockets of swing voters that represent a fractional number of people in a given state. You gain points on this calculator if there are a lot of people who share your characteristics in your state, as displayed by the first meter.
Needless to say, this calculator is only an approximation of complex voting behavior, which can only partially be predicted by a person's age, education, race, and so forth. The application's behavior is based entirely on polls, with the needle moving left or right based on how closely each state and demographic is divided between Obama and McCain. With a week to go before the election, the needle had better be pretty far to the right if you hope to get any attention from the candidates.
Sources: Gallup, Pollster, RealClearPolitics, the Census Bureau, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
Design by Natalie Matthews. Programming by Chris Wilson.
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