Pundits and journalists have written for months on which swing state or key voter demographic will decide the fate of President Obama in November. But a few million young, white, female voters who may pass by a church they rarely attend on their way to their secretarial or waitressing jobs may be the ones who carry the most weight this year.
A survey conducted by The Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners contacted 1,000 likely registered voters between October 14-18 and found that young females – a group that voted heavily in favor of President Obama in 2008 – is concerned about the economy and their prospect for a better job. What the poll also uncovered is that the overwhelming majority of these young women are truly undecided voters, thus they are the ones who could tilt a deadlocked race to one side or the other.
As a whole, this year's typical undecided voter is white, a 18- to 29-year-old female who identifies herself as Protestant but rarely attends church, an Independent, single and employed. She has voted for both Republicans and Democrats and is more concerned about fiscal than social issues. And she hasn't had time to watch the debates.
Meet Crystal Wade, who just turned 30 and moved back to her hometown of Savannah, Tenn., last year to take care of an ill mother and get a fresh start in life. She makes the 75-mile roundtrip drive, five to six days a week to her waitressing job at an upscale restaurant at a Country Club in Corinth, Miss.
She often overhears conversations about what people think of the presidential candidates from the mostly conservative residents of the town of 17,000, especially during the after church rush for the buffet on Sunday. She was drawn to Obama in 2008 because of his promise of hope and change.
"I was for Obama in 2008 because I thought we needed to head in a different direction," Wade told The Christian Post.
When asked what issues matter most to her, she is quick to respond. "Healthcare is the number one priority for me," says the single server. "I don't have it now and I like President Obama's plan to make it more accessible. I'm also concerned about gas prices and discrimination."
She says she hopes President Obama wins, but isn't sure she's going to vote. "I haven't had time to watch the debates or research the issues this year. I'm just too busy with work and caring for my mom."
Notwithstanding where these young voters may land this year, the question remains, are they going to show up in numbers significant enough to determine Obama's fate?
Brittany Johnson grew up just a few miles from Wade and their backgrounds are similar, but Johnson is ready for a change and has already cast her ballot for Romney during the first week of Tennessee's early voting period.
She voted for Obama in 2008.
"I started college and then came home after social life outperformed my grades," said the 24-year-old secretary.
"Now I'm taking classes at the local Community College and want to earn my teaching degree in the next few years. My boyfriend works at the paper mill but we'll need more income to raise a family. Obama hasn't provided much job security to those of us without some type of training or education."
A recently conducted Harvard Institute of Politics national poll found that Obama leads Romney 55 to 36 percent among 18- to 29-year-olds. In 2008, 66 percent of them supported the president over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). However, the youth vote has not grown proportionally to the rest of the electorate and thus Obama's campaign maintains they are more interested in overall turnout than just one particular segment – say youth or women.
The Harvard poll also found that young voters who supported Romney were more likely to actually vote, and that is where Romney can make up lost ground with this particular voter segment.
"This isn't that surprising," posted Sean Sullivan in The Washington Post's "The Fix" last week. "In 2008, votes were yearning for change and Obama was a fresh face with a natural knack for connecting with the young. Four years later, he is an incumbent presiding over difficult economic times."